Fairhope mayor, council president spar on lease negotiation powers


Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson and Council President Jack Burrell traded barbs during the April 8 Fairhope City Council meeting over who in the city would have the authority to negotiate upcoming cell tower leases on behalf of the city.

During the mayoral comments portion of the meeting, Wilson said the move was further proof of the deteriorating relationship between her and the council.

“This is another slap in the face and a sign of the distrust the council has in me,” Wilson said. “From the outset of my term, Councilman Burrell has been campaigning for more and more power and is at the root of the problem the city council and I have.”

Wilson said the council is already part of the negotiation process and that the move was unnecessary.

“The council will always be part of the process,” Wilson said. “It simply doesn’t make sense to cut the mayor out of our process.”

Wilson said she believed the city had significantly improved its financial standing during her time as mayor and questioned if the move to give the powers to negotiate the leases to Burrell and Councilman Jimmy Conyers. The leases were previously negotiated by the city treasurer, but that position has remained vacant for several months.

“I do not believe then or now that it is in the best interest of the city to have one person or now two council members having this power,” Wilson said.

Wilson also took aim at Burrell’s continued tenure as the city’s council president.

“Council president is a designation that should be shared equally among council members throughout the four-year term,” Wilson said. “Council President Burrell has monopolized the position and aggrandized it into something it is not. By continuing to hold the position, he has pushed forward his own personal agenda. This is certainly not how a council president should act.”

Wilson urged the other council members to step up and possibly take the council president position.

During council comments, Burrell fought back at Wilson for her comments on his tenure as council president.

“I find it incredible that you take all of your time during your mayoral comments to chastise me,” Burrell said. “You did it at the Feb. 25 meeting to chastise the city attorney, and now you’re going so far as to ask the voters to replace me. I find your campaigning on the dais to be incredible.”

Burrell said he saw the move of giving lease negotiating powers to the council members as a way of benefitting the city.

“There’s no gain in this for me,” Burrell said. “I’m not in the cell tower business. My desire is to do the best for the City of Fairhope. We don’t have a treasurer right now, so I thought I would be the next logical choice as council president and I asked Jimmy to join me to have another council member to bounce ideas off of.”

Burrell said he didn’t feel the move should be interpreted as a power play and reminded Wilson that the council has the authority to make the change.

“The city council has the authority to ask anyone we choose - we could ask Santa Claus to do this review and bring this back to us,” Burrell quipped. “I don’t find this to be much of a big deal at all.”

Burrell said the change would allow the two council members to negotiate those cell tower leases until a city treasurer had been hired.

The council later voted unanimously to allow the change.