SPANISH FORT – The city of Spanish Fort will pay the legal bills of Mayor Mike McMillan in his defense of charges that he slapped a City Hall employee.
The council voted unanimously Monday, May 17 to pay almost $45,000 in legal bills. The bills include $16,118.16 to the law firm of Stone Crosby and $28,877.46 to the firm of Briskman and Binion.
Councilwoman Mary Brabner was not in the council chambers and did not vote. She was watching the meeting over a Zoom connection and said she supported the vote.
McMillan abstained from the vote and passed the gavel to Mayor Pro Tem Curt Smith to oversee the vote. The mayor left the council chambers before the resolution was introduced and did not return until after the vote.
City Attorney David Conner said state law allows legal bills to be paid for city employees and officials in defense of actions while they are acting on behalf of the municipality.
“This authorizes the payment of legal fees incurred in the defense of Mayor McMillan based on complaints filed by an employee in the defense of those complaints,” Conner said.
Council members did not discuss the vote or comment on the action before approving the resolution.
The resolution passed by the council said any civil and criminal allegations against McMillan while he was acting as mayor could have a potential impact on the city, since a conviction in the criminal case could have been used against Spanish Fort in any civil litigation resulting from the allegation. The resolution also stated that decisions made by the Mayor in the defense of the criminal case and in response to allegations of any civil claims could affect the city.
McMillan was charged with slapping Lyndsey Cooper, who was city magistrate at the time, on Oct. 1, 2019. After a one-day non-jury trial on Oct. 16, 2020, Baldwin County Circuit Judge James Reid ruled that the evidence presented did not justify convicting McMillan on a charge of harassment.
Cooper was fired in May, but city officials said the termination was because she refused an assignment to take temperatures of people entering City Hall as part of COVID-19 precautions. Cooper testified during the trial that she felt that she was fired for filing the charge against McMillan.