In a special called meeting held Dec. 29, the Fairhope City Council unanimously voted on two resolutions involving the ability to sign resolutions for the city, despite protests from Mayor Karin Wilson.
The first resolution granted Council President Jack Burrell or Council President pro team Jay Robinson the ability to sign a resolution passed at the Dec. 18, 2017 council meeting that appointed Marcus McDowell as the new Fairhope city attorney. Wilson had refused to sign the resolution.
The second resolution authorized Burrell and Robinson to execute any resolution not of a permanent nature that the mayor refused or was unable to execute within seven calendar days after passage. The resolution would not limit Wilson’s ability to veto resolutions or ordinances that were permanent in nature.
Robinson said the city had consulted the Alabama League of Municipalities before pursuing the passage of the second resolution.
“This is something they recommended we do,” Robinson said.
Mayor Wilson’s comments
Prior to the meeting, in a post on her official Facebook page on the night of Dec. 28, Wilson wrote the following:
“Council is calling a special meeting tomorrow morning at 8am. This is not for something pressing like passing a budget – they’ve extended this decision to Jan 22nd – for the third time! Rather, it’s an attempt to reduce my role as Mayor, once again, since I refused to sign the resolution to appoint Marcus McDowell to replace Tut Wynn as our new part-time City Attorney.
“I explained during the work session on Nov 27th why the City needed a full-time, experienced municipal attorney. It would not only save our city about $90k a year (conservative estimate), but would reduce our liability by giving us full-time access to an attorney whose only client is the City of Fairhope.
“I also stated that there were things that have happened in the past (decisions and inactions which have been detrimental to the City) that I believe would not have happened had a full-time attorney been in place. Yet, they ignored all of this and without discussion, appointed him during the Dec 18th meeting.
“Of course, I didn’t sign the resolution. I’m never going to sign a resolution I believe is bad for our city. This was a chance for council to make a clear change for the better, but they refused. Tut and Marcus are prosecutors and both relied on outside counsel to answer municipal legal questions. We need a City Attorney experienced in municipal law and planning. So why appoint another prosecutor as our part-time attorney?
“It’s simple. During my term in office, Marcus and Tut have proven to be partial to council and will do whatever council (or President Jack Burrell) asks of them, regardless of what is right for our city. The City Attorney should not work for council or the Mayor, but instead for the CITY. Due to this hastily called meeting, I will discuss the details of the decisions and inactions later.
“None of what I post here will make a difference in tomorrow’s outcome, but I do feel it’s important for citizens to be informed. I’ve shared with a few councilmen a very serious issue I uncovered, but apparently neither felt that Tut and Marcus’ involvement in breaking a federal law last term was reason enough to not appoint him. “I’m just one vote, one voice” is their mentality. They routinely know how each is going to vote beforehand, which can only mean they deliberate between open meetings. Are they afraid to speak their mind? Unfortunately for all of us, it appears this practice will be what we’re stuck with for the next three years.
“I will continue to use my one voice, without fear, in spite of council and the City Attorney's continued efforts to undermine me, because I know I can make a positive difference in Fairhope.”
Council President Burrell’s response
Following the mayor’s post on her Facebook page, Burrell posted the following later that evening on his official Facebook page.
“I am writing this post in response to posts by the Mayor and news organizations to set the record straight:
“I try to keep this page light and not use it for a soapbox, so indulge me this time.
“The Fairhope City Council is the appointing authority for five City of Fairhope positions: City Treasurer, Police Chief, Municipal Judge, City Attorney, and City Clerk. These powers are granted by Alabama state statute. The Mayor is not a member of our city council. Our current city attorney announced his retirement two to three months ago effective December 31, 2017.
“At the December 18, 2017, city council meeting, the city council unanimously voted to appoint Marcus McDowell as the new City Attorney. Fairhope's form of government does not allow for the Mayor to vote on this appointment. This appointment was made as a normal course of business. “Mayor Wilson has refused to sign the contract. In order to not have a lapse in the city attorney position, I called a Special Meeting to approve me or Council President Pro Tempore Jay Robinson sign the contract. It is not uncommon to have a Council President sign legal documents for a city, and becomes necessary when a Mayor refuses to perform their duty.
“Refusal of the Mayor to sign the contract, thus, not executing the Council's resolve is not side-stepping the Mayor, but a complete refusal by the Mayor to perform her duties, which includes executing actions taken by the City Council.
“Let's not let the Mayor once again play the victim.
“It is truly sad to see our Mayor claim that this city council does what I tell them to do. That is an insult to their intelligence. These are highly educated people with strong opinions and a strong resolve. “Each council member has a mind of their own as demonstrated many times by our debates and split votes. Now the Mayor is judge and jury and is convicting good people in her kangaroo court. It is time to stop this nonsense.”
Following the meeting
After the meeting, The Courier approached Wilson for a comment about the votes, and she responded with the following:
“I think not,” Wilson said. “Not with the way you do reporting.”
Burrell said Wilson said she was considering vetoing the resolutions passed by the council.
“She said she is,” Burrell said. “The first one, she can’t. We can authorize anyone we want to negotiate contracts. We are the contracting authority for the city, by state statute. We’re not usurping her authority over anything.”
With regards to comments made in Wilson’s Facebook post about Wynne and McDowell possibly violating federal law, Wynne said he didn’t know what she was talking about.
“Without specificity to know what she’s talking about, I don’t know,” Wynne said. “If she’s talking about the lift station issue that was raised a few months ago, I already responded to that with a letter. If she’s talking about something else, I don’t know what she’s talking about so I can’t respond to it because there is no specificity.”
Wynne also took issue with Wilson’s comments that they had always taken the side of the council.
“She also said that we just side with the council and that is not correct,” Wynne said. “We look at the separation of powers and the law and try to decide what areas the council has authority over, what areas the mayor has authority over. Sometimes, we have told the council they can’t do what they were looking at doing because it was the mayor’s area. We just call it the way the law tells us to call it - we’re not taking sides.”
Wynne also commented on the claim that decisions made by him and McDowell were not in the best interest of the city.
“She also said we we make decisions that are not in the best interest of the city,” Wynne said. “Again, without specificity I don’t know what she’s talking about.”