By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Monday, local businessman Lewis Windham presented a petition from eight business owners to the Moody City Council saying that they would all like to sell and/or serve alcohol on Sundays. Lewis Windham is the owner of Moody Liquors and has been in business in the St. Clair County town for the past three years. Windham said that the ABC Stores have been asking him when Moody was going to allow beer and alcohol sales on Sundays.
Lewis Windham said that St. Clair County has been a wet county for 50 years and he told the Moody City Council that he estimates that his business would alone would see increased sales of 15% with Sunday sales.
Windham asked Moody Mayor Joe Lee to take this issue to the other St. Clair County Mayors. Mayor Lee told Mr. Windham that the St. Clair County Mayor’s Association meets monthly and that Windham could make his case directly to the mayors at the Mayors’ Association meeting.
Mr. Windham said that St. Clair County is one of the three counties in Alabama that are best poised for growth and that Sunday liquor sales would only help that growth. Windham said that Pell City had begun the process of looking at Sunday liquor sales, but for some reason had tabled the issue.
Moody City Attorney Bill Weathington said that to allow alcohol sales (whether in Moody or the whole of St. Clair County) the state legislature would have to pass a bill allowing the people of Moody (or all of St. Clair County) to vote on the measure, but first Windham would have to talk to one of the members of the St. Clair County delegation and ask them to introduce the measure in the next legislative session. If the legislature passed a bill setting up a Sunday alcohol sales referendum, the people of the jurisdiction affected then could hold a referendum on the matter.
Windham asked if this was something he should talk about with Representative Jim McClendon (R) from Springville. Weathington said that yes, McClendon was one of the people.
St. Clair County is also represented in the Alabama state legislature by Rep. Randy Wood (R), Senator Del Marsh (R) from Anniston, Senator Scott Beason (R) from Gardendale, Rep. Dickie Drake (R) from Leeds, and Rep. Mack Butler (R) from Rainbow City.
Windham said that he understood that this would be a long process and that he was committed to seeing it on the ballot in the 2014 elections.
The council made no motion either in support of or in opposition too Mr. Windham’s proposal in their regularly scheduled Monday Meeting.
Two top officials at Taylor Hardin resign as continued staff shortages result in assaults
The facility’s director and director of nursing both abruptly resigned around July 24, and although there have been rumors as to why among staff, there’s no clear indication why the two top facility officials left.
Staffing shortages at the Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility were resulting in dangerous conditions for patients and staff even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the deadly disease is only exacerbating the problem, a worker at the facility told APR.
One of two workers there who were assaulted recently was hospitalized, and the facility’s director and top nurse both mysteriously resigned abruptly in late July, said a Taylor Hardin employee, who asked not to be identified for fear of being fired for speaking about the incidents.
Taylor Hardin, the state’s all-male secure 140-bed psychiatric facility, houses inmates who are awaiting pre-trial competency evaluations and others with serious mental illnesses.
The facility’s director and director of nursing both abruptly resigned around July 24, and although there have been rumors as to why among staff, there’s no clear indication why the two top facility officials left, the worker told APR.
“We had someone come in from Montgomery come in and basically just say that they just wanted to resign, which just didn’t seem accurate,” the worker said.
Attempts to find contact information for the former director and director of nursing were unsuccessful, but Kimberly McAlpine is acting director, according to the department’s website.
APR was unable to confirm a rumor about what may have resulted in the resignations, and the Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH) through a spokeswoman declined to say when the two employees quit or why.
“We cannot comment on personnel matters at our facilities,” an ADMH spokeswoman said in a message Tuesday.
There are two staff members hospitalized with COVID-19, the worker said, and two patients have died after testing positive for coronavirus.
An ADMH spokeswoman in a response to APR on Tuesday said that there have been 28 confirmed COVID-19 cases among residents at the facility. As of Wednesday, the department hadn’t responded to a question about how many staff have become infected with the disease, but the worker said there have been several.
The employee said there needs to be as many as 10 forensic technicians – the people who monitor residents by the hour and do much of the daily tasks directly with them – per unit, but that currently there are approximately two for each unit.
“They do a lot. On top of taking care of these guys, they’ve got to clean up after them. Running meals. They’re running up and down the halls to laundry. They’re getting hit all the time, and they’re starting pay is $10 bucks an hour,” the worker, who is not a forensic technician, said. “And then they get mandated and then they’re working 16-hour shifts.”
Every patient must be checked every 15 minutes, but many require one-to-one supervision at all times, the worker said.
“We’re supposed to have a bathroom monitor at all times. We haven’t been able to have bathroom monitors,” the employee said. “The bathroom is the one place where there’s not a camera, so it can be really dangerous.”
A lieutenant at Taylor Hardin was assaulted by a resident on July 30 and had to be taken by ambulance to a local hospital for treatment, but was expected to be able to return to work after a couple of weeks, the employee said.
Staffing shortages are making the facility more dangerous for the residents and staff alike, the person said, and the injuries continue to mount.
“There was another officer assaulted a few weeks ago, and they called a code and no one was able to respond to it,” the worker said. “Finally it was called that an officer was down and staff were having to leave patients unattended to get down there.”
ADMH also declined to answer APR’s questions about the incident involving the officer or update a reporter on his condition.
“We cannot comment on personnel matters at our facilities, or issues that would fall under HIPAA protections,” an ADPH spokeswoman wrote in a message to APR on Tuesday.
The worker said “we are having to reuse our PPE,” which includes masks and gowns, and said that workers have begun wearing surgical masks over their department-issued N95 mask.
“The N95 is the main thing that we just don’t have enough of, so we’ve been rationing our masks,” the employee said.
“We have a full amount of PPE for staff at our hospitals,” an ADMH spokeswoman said in response.
The worker’s recent concerns about understaffing and an unsafe working environment at Taylor Hardin follow similar concerns of other staff detailed in a 2018 survey in which employees said they were overworked in an unsafe environment with inoperable video cameras, contraband, racial and gender discrimination and unreported incidents.
“We are very short-staffed, which is not safe for the patients or staff…,” said one employee in the survey.
“Too much is swept under the rug – particularly regarding patient safety,” said another.
Alabama Democratic Party Chair Chris England applauds Biden’s VP pick
Alabama’s Democrat Party Chair, Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, on Wednesday applauded former Vice President Joe Biden’s pick of Sen. Kamala Harris for his 2020 running mate.
“Joe Biden made the right choice by selecting Senator Kamala Harris to be his running mate and I could not be more excited. No one has a more impressive political resume. First as a prosecutor, later as California’s Attorney General, and now as a Senator, Kamala Harris has stood up for justice and fought for what is right. She beat the big banks and cracked down on mortgage fraud, fought big oil to protect the environment, and prosecuted companies that stole worker wages and put worker safety at risk. This is the type of leadership we need,” England said in a statement.
“This presidential election is perhaps the most consequential of our lifetime. Now more than ever, people who value democracy and fairness must come together to put America on the right path. I think we are going to make history this November. Not only are we going to restore the soul of our country, but we are also going to elect the first-ever Black female Vice President. The Alabama Democratic Party is all in for Biden and Harris. It is an exciting time to be a Democrat, especially in Alabama,” England continued.
The California senator was the first Black woman to be elected as the state’s attorney general in 2010. She was elected to Congress in 2016, and serves on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Two Lawrence County schools to start online after worker tests positive for COVID-19
Two Lawrence County schools announced Wednesday that both will begin the school year online after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.
Moulton Middle School and Moulton Elementary School will both begin with online learning until at least Aug. 26, the schools said in separate Facebook posts.
The employee tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday and school administrators began working to learn who may have been exposed to the person and discovered that several people had been in close contact with the person, according to the posts.
The decision to move to online instruction followed a recommendation from the Alabama Department of Public Health to do so, school officials wrote in the posts.
“We are following the guidance from the Alabama Department of Public Health, the Alabama State Department of Education, and the Alabama State Superintendent on closing our campuses to students. We will begin transitioning to virtual instruction until August 26th,” the post reads. “We regret the hardship that this causes many of our parents. We would like to thank our teachers, faculty, staff, parents, and students for their patience, positive attitudes, and continued support for learning shown during this difficult time.”
Lake View mayor pleads guilty to ethics violation, resigns from office
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday announced the conviction of former Lake View Mayor Paul Calhoun after he voted on a matter that benefited him personally, a violation of the state’s ethics law.
Calhoun, 45, pleaded guilty in Tuscaloosa County district court to voting on a matter in which he had a financial interest, according to a press release from Marshall’s office.
The crime is a Class A misdemeanor, and as part of the guilty plea, Calhoun agreed to resign from office and not run again in the upcoming municipal election, according to the release.
Calhoun was appointed mayor of Lake View in 2016, and was later elected to a four-year term.
Calhoun, who was a voting member of the town’s council, voted “no” on a motion to order himself to repay the town for travel expenses incurred for unauthorized out-of-state travel expenses, according to the release.
His vote against the measure resulted in a tie that led to the failure of the motion’s passage.
“Former Mayor Calhoun crossed the line when he violated state ethics laws for his personal benefit,” said Marshall. “We expect public officials to conduct themselves with integrity and when they do not, they will be held to account.”
Calhoun’s sentencing date has not yet been set, and the conviction is punishable by up to a year in prison, a fine of up to $6,000 or both.