Phenix City clergy to file ethics complaint in superintendent hiring

benw@ledger-enquirer.comJune 12, 2014 

Phenix City Council hears from concerned clergy on Monday following the controversial firing of City Manager Wallace Hunter on May 20.

ROBIN TRIMARCHI — rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com

Two days after the Phenix City Board of Education hired a new superintendent, a spokesman for the Community of Concerned Clergy vowed Thursday to file an ethics complaint against the board with the state of Alabama.

The Rev. Noble Williams, pastor of Greater Mount Zion Baptist Church and spokesman for the Community of Concerned Clergy, announced the action in a standing-room-only meeting at the board’s headquarters on Ninth Avenue.

Williams said state law was ignored in the Tuesday hiring of Crenshaw County Superintendent Randy Wilkes as the new Phenix City schools superintendent. Wilkes, 47, was not among the five finalists considered by the board in May. Two of the candidates were interviewed in a public meeting in accordance with state law and the other three withdrew from the process.

Without a public interview, the board considered Wilkes for the position to replace Larry DiChiara, who was dismissed in late November.

“You chose to ignore state law, which is an ethics violation,” Williams said. “You chose to ignore the recommendation of the advance education team and because ofthese actions we are going to submit an ethics complaint to the state of Alabama and the Ethics Committee concerning these violations. We will also contact the superintendent of education and make him aware of these proceedings.”

No action was taken by the board after Williams’ announcement. After the meeting, board chairman Brad Baker said he had conversations with the state and was told how to go through the selection process.

“They can do whatever they want to,” Baker said of the group. “I think we hired the best available. He was the best and that is where we are at.”

When the board was down to two finalists, Baker said the board wasn’t satisfied.

“I called the state and said I needed some help,” he said. “Give me some superintendents. We wanted to hire a superintendent.”

Out of the four names presented from the state, Baker said Wilkes was the best choice and he was kind of endorsed by the state.

“I met him and we moved forward,” Baker said. “And that is where we at in the process.”

During the Thursday meeting, Williams also criticized the board in removing football coach Woodrow Lowe at Central High School.

Lowe was removed with a 33-13 record at the school where he starred in football. He is a man of integrity, a three-time all American at the University of Alabama, inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and played in the National Football League, the pastor said. “This should be a favorite son of this city who chose to come back and coach at his alma mater,” he said.

In a list, Williams asked the board to do the right thing if it’s serious about mending this issue:

• Make the superintendent’s contract null and void and include the public in a new search.

• Place minority administrators in the schools.

• Hire more minority teachers.

• Keep Marcy Sherfield in her job as executive administrative assistant to personnel and student services.

• Re-instate coach Lowe at Central High School.

• Form a bi-racial committee to bring about fairness to the schools.

Minutes after Williams’ statement, the board voted 4-3 to transfer Sherfield to an assistant principal’s job at Central High School. She had opposed the move that was directed in April by interim Superintendent Rod Hinton, whose contract expired Thursday.

There was no discussion on the action, but the transfer was considered in a separate proposal from other personnel moves. Voting for the transfer were Baker, Ricky Carpenter, Paul Stamp and Fran Ellis. Voting no included Kelvin Redd, Zara Parham and Barbara Mitchell.

Correction: an earlier version of this story incorrectly listed Woodrow Lowe's record as Central High football coach as 37-17

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