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Mayor still disputes validity of meeting

Demopolis mayor Cecil P. Williamson maintains that the special meeting held on Sept. 24 was an illegal meeting, despite city attorney Richard S. Manley stating at the special meeting that it was a legally called meeting, and despite the rulebook that she stands by saying the meeting is a legally called meeting.

At the end of Thursday’s Demopolis City Council meeting, when council members and the mayor speak about different issues around town, Williamson said, “I have one item for the council, and that is the meeting that was held last week — regardless of whether the city attorney said it was a legal meeting — was not, according to the Alabama League of Municipalities.

“I talked to four attorneys over there in the last week. What I recommend is that this body take this Resolution 2008-22 and make it 2008-23 and pass it at a legal meeting so it will be a legal resolution.”

The resolution clarified a number of topics relating to the city’s request for grant monies from the Alabama Dept. of Transportation on Monday, including changing the city contact from Williamson to Debra M. Fox and naming the engineering firm of Almon and Associates as the official firm for the project instead of Goodwin, Mills and Kawood. The council had approved Almon and Associates at a previous regular meeting.

Since the time the special meeting was requested, Williamson has maintained that the meeting violates Section 57 of the Alabama Handbook for Mayors and Council Members, which follows Section 11-43-50 of the 1975 Code of Alabama.

The passage she is referring to reads: “The presiding officer of the council (the mayor in cities of less than 12,000 inhabitants) shall call special meetings whenever in his or her opinion the public interest requires it.”

Williamson received an e-mail regarding the meeting from District 5 representative Jack Cooley days before he meeting was called, but she believes the request for the meeting should have come in writing and signed by two council members. However, that is not outlined as such in the Alabama Handbook, although it is mentioned in the state law that the Handbook is based on.

In fact, the Handbook goes on to say: “If the presiding officer fails or refuses to call such a meeting, when requested, the two council members making the request…have the right to call such a meeting.”

At Thursday’s meeting, District 1 representative Thomas Moore, who presided over the special meeting in Williamson’s absence, responded to Williamson, saying, “My position on that is that we talked with the city attorney because I personally leaned on the city attorney’s interpretation of whether the meeting was legal and proper or not, and I would hate to act on it right now without his advice.”

“Well, according to the attorney that he talked to, there was some lack in communication,” Williamson said.

“I wouldn’t want to do that without his input,” Moore said. “That’s my personal feeling.”

“Well, he (Manley) will be here at the next meeting, then,” Williamson said, “because this resolution is not valid.”

“Well, based on what he said it was, it is valid,” said Moore.

“Well, based on the Alabama League of Municipalities, it is not valid,” Williamson said.

Cooley and District 3 representative Melvin Yelverton each said they also followed Manley’s advice regarding the legality of the meeting.

District 2 representative Charles E. Jones Sr. recommended that the subject be tabled until the next council meeting, and everyone agreed.

The next Demopolis City Council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 16, at 5:15 p.m. at Rooster Hall.

Other actions taken at the Demopolis City Council meeting include:

The council approved the naming of Tom Perry and Ann Braxton to the hospital board; Mark Dollar and Ann Hunter to the board of adjustments and approved Mary Jo Martin to another term on that board, and decided to name two alternates to that board at the next meeting. Dollar and Hunter were named to replace Charles Singleton, who is active in the military, and Freddie Charleston, who had served two terms.

The council tabled a decision regarding the agreement between the City of Demopolis Fire and Rescue and the Tombigbee Emergency Medical Service until all council members were in attendance. District 4 representative Woody Collins was absent.

The council approved an off-premises alcohol license to the Demopolis Tobacco Store and More at 702 Highway 80 East.

The council discussed the ADEM fee increase of 16 cents per household per month. Council members questioned if that could be done in light of the city’s set contract with the company. The council decided to find out if that action is allowable.

The council agreed to allow the sale of property previously owned by the Alabama State Troopers on U.S. Highway 80 East.

Chuck Smith told the council of plans to add on to the Alabama Southern Community College complex. He said the plans would include a technical center with engineering design services.

“The people at the Marengo County Tech Center in Linden were excited about this possibility,” said Angelia Mance, director of ASCC. “They would have a better opportunity to drive up to Demopolis during the day than they would to Thomasville.”

The council discussed the proposed municipal building. Williamson said that $1.7 million was still available in bond issue funds, and that would be adequate to pay for the building’s construction. The building will be at the current site of the Demopolis Police Dept. building, and will include space for a city court area.