The Sparks City Council took the unusual step during a called meeting on Monday, July 18, 2022, of approving a resolution to reprimand a Council Member.
Council Member Fenley Castleberry brought up the issue as the last item in the meeting. Castleberry suggested that discussion of the resolution be held in executive session, closed to the public. However, new City Attorney Tommy Coleman said the resolution did not fall under the legal exceptions to an open meeting, including personnel, pending litigation, and real estate. Castleberry and the rest of the Council agreed.
Coleman then read the resolution, which he had prepared at the behest of Council Members.
The resolution expresses support for former City Clerk Sonya B. Philpot as “an exemplary and totally honest employee” for more than 21 years. The resolution further reprimands Council Member Kenneth Sutton for making allegations against Mrs. Philpot, calls on him to correct his remarks and immediately apologize, asks the City of Adel to disregard remarks that Sutton allegedly made, and demands that Sutton do not use city equipment for any personal conduct. The resolution is to be included in the official City Council minutes.
In turn, Sutton said he would not make an apology to anyone. He denied the allegations in the resolution and commented that he had not spoken to anyone in Adel about Mrs. Philpot. He described the resolution wording as “a defamatory action” and “hearsay.” He added that he had received permission from Mayor Earl Jackson to use a city computer and there was nothing in the City Charter to say he couldn’t.
Council Members Will Pewee and Harold Johnson said they had been told Sutton made allegations against Mrs. Philpot. Johnson and Pewee said they had been told that Sutton had made the remarks to Adel Councilman Greg Paige.
However, both Sutton and Greg Paige’s wife Altheia, present at the meeting, denied that Sutton had spoken on the matter to Councilman Paige. She offered to get Councilman Paige on the phone to confirm this.
The Sparks Council meeting became very heated with Sutton telling Council Member Castleberry, “Don’t ever point at me!” Castleberry later remarked about Sutton, “You might need to calm him down.”
In response to Sutton’s questions about wording of the resolution, Attorney Coleman said he had written it as directed by other Council Members. “That is between you and your colleagues,” Coleman said.
Council Member Castleberry made a motion to adopt the resolution and place it in the formal meeting minutes. Council Member Pewee seconded the motion.
However, the discussion continued. Mayor Jackson acknowledged that he had permitted Sutton to use a City computer. However, Sutton said he had only used it to obtain information from the “DCA website” to help people in the City. “I’m really upset,” Sutton said. “I was hoodwinked and told something different. They lied to me.”
The discussion concluded with a roll call vote on the matter, at the recommendation of Attorney Coleman. Council Member Castleberry made a motion to adopt the resolution, with the change that Mayor Jackson had given Sutton permission to use the computer. Council Member Johnson seconded the motion. Voting “yes” were Council Members Castleberry, Johnson, Chris Cheatum, and Will Pewee. Sutton said he was voting only “yes” for the change that was made. The motion passed. (Council Member Sam Wilson was not present at Monday’s meeting.)
EDITOR’S NOTE – The Adel News will have more information about this matter and other Sparks City Council business in upcoming issues.