Arrest, road complaints spark heated exchanges

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It was a tough night for Monticello alderman Tuesday as theyfielded a disgruntled crowd’s questions that ranged from allegedpolice brutality to community appearance.

Eugene Bryant, president of the Lawrence County chapter of theNational Association for the Advancement of Colored People, renewedhis call for citizen review board to oversee complaints lodgedagainst police officers. The request stems from a complaint Bryantreceived this month from a resident who alleged he was mistreatedduring an arrest Sept. 29 at a roadblock on Highway 27.

Many of the details surrounding the arrest were unclear to bothsides, prompting a heated exchange between Bryant and Ward ThreeAlderman James Wilson.

“This is only an allegation and there are two sides to everystory. We understand that,” Bryant said in introducing thetopic.

However, when Wilson began presenting possibilities that couldhave represented how the use of force would have been necessary,Bryant angrily retorted that was not what happened.

The exchange ended only after Mayor Dave Nichols slammed downthe gavel several times and seized the floor. Nichols pointed outneither side knew what had occurred during the incident.

The discussion continued calmly after the interruption.

Nichols told Bryant the town had agreed to consider a citizensreview board when the NAACP representative presented the topic manymonths ago. However, Bryant was supposed to return with informationon how the board was conducted in other municipalities and he hadnot done so.

“That’s where that ended,” Nichols said. “I’m receptive tolooking at anything that makes our town better.”

Bryant did not disagree and said he would return to the board bythe end of November with the information.

Bryant and Wilson traded apologies and hand shakes following themeeting.

Tempers were high in an unrelated matter when landowners along aspur of Western Avenue claimed the town was attempting to taketheir property.

The claim was prompted when the town paved an approximately 20-to 30-yard stretch of road. Western Avenue bends into nearly a 90degree angle at the point of conflict and the spur continuesstraight.

The dispute centered on whether the spur was part of WesternAvenue or a driveway. Residents along the spur have a WesternAvenue address.

Residents claimed the city was planning an attempt to seizetheir property by seeking easements along the spur and vehementlyopposed the plan.

Nichols said the city had no plans to seek easements along thespur and only tried to provide a better road to the residents ofthat area.

“Apparently, you don’t like new asphalt,” he said. “I’m lookingyou in the eye now and telling you we are not trying to take yourproperty.”

Ward Four Alderman Kevin Garrett said an investigation by thetown showed the road had been maintained by the city or county atsome time in the past. He admitted that prior to the paving it waspitted, in bad shape and had not been maintained in many yearsbefore the city decided to pave it.

“We never maintained that road,” said Ward One Alderman JerryGoode. “There may have been some excess asphalt dumped there atsome time, but we never maintained that road.”

Goode claimed it was determined to be a private drive before itwas paved, but “the next thing I knew it was being paved.”

He insinuated the board was seeking political favors in exchangefor providing illegal services. When challenged by Ward Five Craig”Bowie” Davis, Goode said he was not including him in theallegation.

However, when Nichols challenged the accusation, Goode pointedto office meetings between the mayor and Donald Walters, a residentat the end of the spur who has a circular drive and has beenattempting to get the city to pave it while paving the road. Hisdriveway was not paved.

“Yes, he’s come to meet with me; and I told him the same thing Ijust told you,” Nichols shot back. “We paved (the road) thinking itwas street and that’s the end of it as we see it.”

Cheryl Funchess, a resident on the spur, appeared satisfied withthe results of the meeting as she left, but continued to state herperception of the road.

“Thank you for the paved road. And I think we’re agreed it’sprivate,” she said.

In a separate matter, resident B.R. Duckworth complained aboutthe appearance of the property of a Second Avenue neighbor.

It was the second complaint made to the city, but Duckworth hasnever approached the neighbor about the property, Nichols said.

The neighbor took immediate steps to correct some of thedeficiencies following the first complaint in September, the mayorsaid. Nichols, though, could not say whether the property wasimproved enough to meet the town’s minimal appearanceordinance.

The board decided to allow two aldermen to inspect the propertyto see if it violated the ordinance before taking furtheraction.