‘No griping’: Baldwin County elected officials told to not complain about state’s Hurricane Sally response efforts during call with Ivey administration
Hurricane Sally made landfall on September 16 near Gulf Shores, and it left hundreds of millions of dollars of damage and more than 500,000 without power in its wake.
The most-significant damage within Alabama occurred in Baldwin County. However, media reports have indicated the response at the state government level had left much to be desired given emergency supplies were slow to arrive at storm-battered areas.
Tuesday, Gov. Kay Ivey’s office hosted a conference call that included mayors, county commissioners and members of the legislature from Baldwin County regarding the State of Alabama’s role in the Hurricane Sally response. However, according to State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne), whose district includes where the storm made landfall, those local officials were instructed not to complain about the state’s response during that phone call by Ivey chief of staff Jo Bonner and deputy chief of staff Liz Filmore.
During an interview with Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5 on Friday, Elliott offered his account of the call with Bonner and Filmore, which he said had the two elected officials on the call instructed not to gripe on seven occasions.
“You know, that was one of the things that was frustrating — an opportunity to try to communicate with the Governor’s office,” he said. “They had a call with mayors, commissioners and the legislative delegation — and they didn’t seem interested in talking about some of the things that really needed some works. As a matter of fact, I heard by my count seven different times that they didn’t want to hear any gripes at all. That was pretty frustrating. I understand during an emergency, you don’t want to dwell on things that are not going well. But at the same time, sometimes you need to figure out a way to actually talk about things that may need some improvements, so they don’t continue to happen, and that’s something we’ve got to get past. The administration has got to be willing to say there are some things that did not go well. We’ve got to be able to have an honest dialogue about what those things were and figure out a way to improve them and not simply gloss over them and say, ‘Everything is great, and there’s no need for improvement.'”
“That came from the chief of staff and the deputy chief of staff,” Elliott replied. “It wasn’t received well by me or other local electeds down here. They said, ‘Gosh, we’re big boys and girls. We need to be able to talk about things that are not working well, especially as they continue to go on if something is not working, let’s try to fix it and fix it now as opposed to simply saying everything is great and we don’t need to look at any other problems.'”
Yellowhammer News confirmed Elliott’s account of the “no griping” instruction with other participants on the call.
Yellowhammer News also reached out to Ivey’s office for comment. Ivey spokeswoman Gina Maiola offered the following emailed response:
It is unfortunate that the tone and content of this phone call is being taken out of context. The Governor’s Office initiated a phone call between the local leaders, legislative delegation and emergency managers in Baldwin County to hear the critical needs from those on the ground in response to the hurricane. At the request of the local officials on the call, Deputy Chief of Staff Liz Filmore set parameters of the discussion in order to have a productive and timely call with a large group. At no point was anyone told they cannot express frustration with our office, but the call should not deviate from the intent – getting help to the people affected by Hurricane Sally. Of course, there will be a time and a place for an after-action report, and we will all want to address areas to improve before the next disaster. However, the governor and our team’s priority remains laser-focused on helping the people of Coastal Alabama recover.
@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.