Opp DRA meeting gets heated Thursday

Published 12:01 am Friday, October 26, 2012

Fireworks exploded at Thursday’s Downtown Redevelopment Authority meeting in Opp over who would become the new chairman of the organization.

It’s necessary to elect a new chairman because the current chairman, John Bartholomew, was elected mayor in the municipal runoff.

Doris Wismer, who said she has been active in DRA since current mayor H.D. Edgar was elected in 2004, said the meeting got heated when DRA member Vaughn Bowers made a motion to elect outgoing councilman Scotty Short as the new chairman.

Wismer said she seconded the motion.

“But (Bartholomew) said I couldn’t second the motion because I wasn’t in the minutes as approved,” Wismer said.

Wismer said she has formerly served a secretary of DRA when Bart Boothe was president.

Bartholomew said he had checked with City Clerk Connie Smith prior to Thursday’s meeting to see who the actual members were of DRA, so that he could pass on the information to whomever was elected the new chairman.

“We wanted to make sure that all the paperwork was in order,” Bartholomew said. “So that the new chairman would know who was on DRA and who wasn’t. Then, they could recommend new people to the council. It has to be voted on by the council. There were two members who were not part of it, but thought they were. It wasn’t my fault, and I can’t break the law.”

City Clerk Connie Smith confirmed that Wismer was never appointed to the DRA.

Bartholomew then made a motion to elect Ernie DePrinzio, who works for him as the general manager of Alabama Aerospace Manufacturing, and has organized booths for Opp Fest for the past three years.

Wismer said that there was a 5-5 tie for DePrinzio, and Bartholomew asked City Planner Don Childre to cast the deciding vote. Childre voted for DePrinzio.

Bartholomew said Childre was asked to vote after members of DRA asked for him to come.

According to records at city hall, Childre is a voting member of DRA.

Still, Wismer is upset that her vote didn’t count because she said she’s served the past eight years.

“It’s for no pay,” she said. “It’s because you love the City of Opp. I went on and worked and did Opp Fest, the cars and yard sales all these years. We thought anyone who wanted to work, was on the board. Emilee Gage thought she was, but she was also informed she was not voted on, but (Bartholomew) said ‘We want you to stay on; we will vote for you.’”

Wismer also said she no longer attended meetings after last year’s Opp Fest.

“We’re a very informal group,” she said. “We’re not a group that’s ever gone by Robert’s Rules of Order. Everyone knew what they needed to do and did it.”

Wismer said she thinks, “that the mayor-elect would like to clear out the people who had allegiance to the former mayor. I think I am the first of many people who will be gotten rid of.”

Bartholomew denied accusations that he was retaliating against the Edgar campaign.

“My objective is to move forward for the betterment of Opp,” he said. “I want to put the right people in the right place so that Opp came grow. Opp has to grow.”

Bartholomew said he believes that DePrinzio will make a great leader of the DRA.

“Ernie is wonderful,” he said. “He has never missed a meeting in the last two years.”