Minister speaks after visit to board
By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 18, 2013 1:46 PM
A volunteer with the county's free adult literacy program Tuesday morning chastised Wayne County commissioners not for budget cuts to the program, but for what he called the demeaning way that some commissioners treat county employees and the public.
"I honor the job that you are doing," said Dr. Glenn Phillips, a Literacy Connections of Wayne County volunteer. "But unfortunately for you, I am preaching from Luke 12 this week. The last of that Scripture says, 'To whom much is given, much is required.' So I am looking you in your eyes today to tell you that much is required of you.
"I know some of you think that you have done that job by cutting our tax rate back to 66 cents. But I would say that it is more than that. There are persons in our community whom I felt were spoken poorly of at our last gathering by persons on this board."
Phillips said he felt like he needed to speak up for the students in the literacy program and for the volunteers who help make it run, as well as the staff.
His criticism is not personal, he said.
"I appreciate the hard work that you do," he said. "I don't know all that you have to do. I know that (Commissioner) Ray (Mayo), as a church member, gives a lot of time and effort. I would like to say one thing, we elected you, every single person.
"No one of us, even an employee of the county, needs to feel demeaned in your presence, or as if they were spoken down to, or lacked the abilities to do their jobs, and to live as citizens in this community."
Phillips' comments followed an apology at the start of the meeting by Commissioner Joe Daughtery for what he said were perceived as "harsh statements" he made at the board's Sept. 3 meeting.
Daughtery followed up the apology with an attempt to justify his comments -- as an effort on his part to unearth the facts. He also renewed his criticisms of Literacy Connections as a drain on tax dollars.
Phillips spoke in support of the program at the Sept. 3 meeting where Daughtery made his comments following a request by Literacy Connections Director Pat Yates to restore funding. Phillips was at the meeting with Winsor Ingram who learned to read at Literacy Connections.
Tuesday he sat in the audience as Daughtery apologized.
Daughtery, who wants the program to charge fees, said he was "sorry" if he had "appeared to be insensitive or harsh in any way" with his questioning of Mrs. Yates.
"Some would simply have me approve any request for funding and quit asking some hard questions," he said. "That is just not me and I am sorry.
"It really would be easy not to press to get the facts. There is no disrespect intended in these questions."
Many taxpayers take issue with the fact that government is taxing citizens and then deciding to distribute those tax dollars to nonprofit organizations, he said.
"It has a laudable mission and provides a great service to our community, but it is not a county agency," Daughtery said. "It has its separate charter, its policies, and its own board of directors.
"Wayne County simply takes some of your tax dollars and donates it to Literacy Connections."
Mrs. Yates asked the board at the Sept. 3 meeting to restore $27,000 that had been cut from her budget. A budget amendment for that amount was drafted and recommended for approval by the county finance office, but wasn't brought up for a vote.
Commissioners did provide $2,000 to help the agency get through September to have the money to pay an employee.
During Tuesday's public comments section, and following Daughtery's apology, Phillips challenged the board "to really consider" actions that it was taking.
"I know that we have a 30-day window that you have given us," he said. "I have listened and I know you all have a difficult job."
Phillips said he believes that commissioners are public servants.
Literacy Connections is an opportunity for a small amount of money in the total budget to make a difference in the community for good, not just for those individuals, but the community so that people can have jobs, pay taxes, buy goods and be contributing citizens, he said.
"I want to believe that is what you all want," he said.
Phillips said he could live with the board's decisions.
"Should you decide not to give the $30,000 at all, not one penny, I will live with that," he said. "I will get busy and work, not to charge the people in that program, but to see if we can raise some money to make that program go.
"I cannot live with tones and demeanors toward our people that our elected officials should not have. I am not concerned that I am the pastor of First Baptist Church. I don't want anybody to look at me to feel that I am any better than any of them. I am their servant. None of us are impressed with any accolades, honors, businesses, responsibilities and estates, we just want you serve us and that is what we are asking."