REPRIMANDED: Taheri confirms Ag Director was disciplined

REPRIMANDED: Taheri confirms Ag Director was disciplined

By Marla Jones,Managing Editor •

RAINSVILLE, Ala. — Following the Southern Torch exclusive breaking story concerning misuse of funds at the Northeast Alabama Agri-Business Center (Ag Center), Councilmember Bejan Taheri confirmed that Ag Center Director Mike Sweat has been disciplined. 

According to Taheri, the disciplinary action includes reimbursement of alleged misuse of funds, a written reprimand and employment probation. 

“Everything has to go through the Board (Public Building Authority, PBA) right now as far as expenses and what he needs [to operate the facility],” said Taheri. 

The PBA Board has yet to show proof that Sweat paid any money in the form of a reimbursement. 

Councilmember Brandon Freeman provided Southern Torch with the February 2012 Agri-Business Center Board minutes that show when the credit card and the authority to use the card was authorized by the Agri-Business Center Board.

The members present at the meeting that authorized the credit card were Bryan Thomas, Larry Traylor, Randy Tumlin, Nathaniel Ledbetter and Ricky Byrum. 

Last week in our online post, Freeman stated, “The credit card was issued through the Public Building Authority NOT the City of Rainsville, plus we pulled the minutes when it was issued and it wasn’t labeled how it could be used. The PBA came to the City and we told them how ours was used and they implemented the changes, not the City, the bill belongs to them not the City of Rainsville.” 

Our online post reached over 8,000 Facebook users with numerous comments. One particular follower, Regina Butler Randolph, responded to Freeman, which resulted in a back-and-forth banter between the two. 

Randolph said, “He should not have been using for ‘whatever he wanted.’ I can’t believe you actually said that! How stupid do you and the rest of the [Good Ole Boys] think the citizens of Rainsville are? Sweat was ripping the City off with approval from the Board and you.” 

Freeman responded, “As you can look on the dates of the actual minutes of the Board meeting in 2012, I was not the one that said that! And I NEVER said that!” 

Randolph rebutted, “You should have followed up with ‘but what idiot would think, he could go on vacation and use this credit card! He did an unethical thing and you just don’t want anyone to associate you with it or think you had anything to do with it.” Freeman did not respond any further. 

Councilmember Marshall Stiefel stated that he stood behind his original decision at the January 10 council meeting to terminate Mr. Sweat. 

“As more information surfaces, I feel even stronger that Sweat needs to go,” said Stiefel. 

After contacting the Mayor, PBA President Eric Samples, and the remaining members of the City Council, all declined to comment citing that all of this occurred in an executive session.