March 7, 2019
Southern Torch (3845 articles)


By Marla Jones, Managing Editor •

RAINSVILLE, Ala. — (Full Video on our Facebook) At this week’s meeting of the Rainsville City Council, the Council went into executive session. Shortly after, the Council announced that they had received the resignation letter of Northeast Alabama Agri-Business Center (Ag Center) Director Mike Sweat. The Council unanimously voted to accept.

Allegations of misuse of funds at the Ag Center surfaced in January when the Southern Torch reported an exclusive investigative report that revealed misuse of public funds associated with the Ag Center. The report followed a review of financial documents obtained from the City and the Public Building Authority (PBA), the entity that owns the Ag Center.

Sweat’s resignation comes amidst controversy regarding the misuse of funds at the Ag Center. Following the initial report of misuse of funds, Councilmember Bejan Taheri confirmed that Sweat was in fact disciplined for his alleged misuse of funds with employment probation, reimbursement and a written reprimand. Sweat’s final day on the job was Tuesday, March 5, 2019.

In a statement made to Southern Torch, PBA President Eric Samples stated that Sweat’s reason for resigning as Director was due to health complications following a knee replacement earlier this year. 

Samples stated that the job would be posted in the near future. The PBA, along with the Ag Center Board, would narrow the field of candidates and then present to the Council. 

Councilmember Marshall Stiefel expressed his well wishes to Mr. Sweat in his future endeavors. 

“I feel that this is a win for tax-paying citizens in the City of Rainsville,” said Stiefel. “My only regret is that this wasn’t acted on sooner. This situation could have been resolved much earlier had I received a second and affirmative vote when I moved the Council for his termination in January.”

“I have no way of knowing whether or not my recent contacting of the District Attorney’s Office had any effect on Mr. Sweat’s resignation,” he concluded. “I am still waiting on confirmation of reimbursements made from Mr. Sweat.”

Southern Torch reached out to Councilmember Brandon Freeman, the Council liaison to the PBA Board, but he was not available for comment. 

For our previously reporting on this story, please click on these links:

In the workshop, the Council presented the family of the late-Mayor Donnie Chandler with a plaque honoring his service to the City.

Rainsville citizen Verlon Wright addressed the Council after receiving a notice from Revenue Enforcement Officer (REO) Matt Crum and retired REO Richard Gibson for having chickens in a residential area. Crum and Gibson reported that Wright was in violation of a City zoning ordinance and had 30 days to remove the chickens from his land.

Wright revealed that Councilmember Taheri has chickens within a residential area as well. 

Taheri stated that there were many news outlets that had approached him regarding this and asked for an apology from Wright and Councilmember Stiefel, who has publicly backed Wright’s ownership of the chickens. No apologies were given.

“If [Taheri] can have chickens, so can I,” said Wright. “I just want to be treated fairly.”

According to Wright, prior to Monday’s meeting, Mayor Rodger Lingerfelt informed him that he would be able to keep his chickens.

In the meeting, the Council approved the following:

  • $500 sponsorship to the DARE Program
  • Recognized May 18 as Public Service Appreciation Day for the Police and Fire Departments
  • Empowered the Mayor to seek financing for a Kenworth Truck in the amount of $174,670
  • Approved the purchase of a bumper in the amount of $2,500 from J&S Welding
  • Surplused two police vehicles and all radios
  • Approved the installation of wireless internet in the amount of $750 at the Softball Field/Farmer’s Market for cameras
  • Accepted the resignation of Cody Dupree as animal control officer
  • Purchased a computer for City Hall in the amount of $1,248.60

The next meeting of the Rainsville City Council will be held on Monday, March 18 at 5pm with a workshop beginning at 4:15pm.

Southern Torch

Southern Torch


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