The appointment of local television station owner and broadcast personality Suzie Wiley to the Personnel Board created one last conflict Monday for the outgoing Decatur City Council in the final scheduled meeting of the term.
The council voted 3-2 to approve Wiley’s appointment despite Mayor Tab Bowling’s assertion that she had a possible conflict of interest and Councilman Chuck Ard’s desire to instead appoint a person with human resources experience. The council also voted 3-2 against tabling the motion.
Council President Paige Bibbee sided with fellow council members Charles Kirby and Billy Jackson against Ard and Councilwoman Kristi Hill on both motions. The council is responsible for making appointments to the Personnel Board.
The new council takes office Nov. 2. Jackson is the only current council member who will be on the next council.
Kirby, who has his own talk show on Wiley’s station, accused Ard and Bowling of getting personal with her appointment.
“Chuck and Tab don’t like her because of some of the positions she’s taken,” Kirby said. “Tab tried to dictate some of her questions when she interviewed him this summer (for a series on municipal election candidates). He doesn’t like her because she’s a woman, and he can be very condescending toward women.”
Bowling denied he has a problem with Wiley and said the accusation that he has been condescending toward Wiley and women in leadership “is totally untrue.” He said they had a good visit during the taping of the campaign show.
“I answered all of her questions,” Bowling said.
Wiley, who watched the council meeting online, did not back up Kirby.
“There’s no problem whatsoever between me and Mr. Ard or the mayor,” Wiley said.
Bowling said Wiley’s position as the host of a cable television talk show could be considered a conflict of interest. The mayor said the council also needs to check with the Federal Communications Commission to make sure serving on this board is allowed.
“She could report on information she gets exclusively as a Personnel Board member,” Bowling said.
Hill said she would be willing to support Wiley “if she signs a letter that guarantees she won’t report about the Personnel Board.”
Kirby said Wiley has served well in a number of projects and she served the community on the Library Board, the One Decatur comprehensive plan steering committee and Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long's growth plan committee.
“Your concerns are being manufactured,” Kirby said.
However, Bowling said the Personnel Board is different from those other three boards because the “Personnel Board is more of a governing body.”
The Personnel Board is a city board created by an act of the state Legislature that hears employee grievances, penalty hearings and appeals. It makes recommendations related to employees on positions, city hierarchy, pay and benefits, and hiring processes.
Three people applied for the Personnel Board opening, but one serves on another board and the council has a rule that a person can’t serve on more than one city board.
Ard said this council has always said at least three of the five-member Personnel Board should be “HR professionals” but there will be only one member with human resources experience after Dec. 31.
“Suzie is a valuable asset to our community, but then we will have the wrong mix of talent on that board,” Ard said.
Jackson said he doesn’t think it’s necessary to be an HR professional or to have at least three on the board “because working government HR is much different from HR in private business.”
A Personnel Board advocates as much for the employees as it does for city government while private human resources officials work for the benefit of the company, Jackson said.
Human Resources Director Richelle Sandlin said it helps to have HR experience but it’s not necessary and the main difference between private-sector and public-sector human resources is that the city works on a merit system.
Hill said she wanted to delay the appointment because it was added Friday as the last item on the agenda. She suggested accepting more applicants and interviewing the two candidates, but the council majority wanted to vote Monday.
“It seems like we’re in a little bit of a rush,” Hill said.
Bibbee said City Clerk Stacy Gilley called her Friday to let her know that she was adding the appointment to the agenda. Bibbee said she was against any delays because the outgoing board member has been serving a year past the end of his term, and Wiley applied to serve last year.
Bowling used his mayoral appointments as an example of how he thinks the council should handle Personnel Board appointments. He said he and the director of the department that deals with various boards interview candidates before making the appointments.
Jackson said he doesn’t like a director’s involvement in “picking board members who are going to be his or her boss.” The Personnel Board evaluates Sandlin and decides on her salary increases.
Jackson said he likes Wiley as a choice because she won’t rubber-stamp decisions.
“She will be vocal and fair, look at every angle and she’ll make good, logical decisions,” Jackson said.
Wiley said she didn’t have a problem with the council's discussion of her appointment.
“They all expressed their opinions and they actually praised me,” Wiley said.