Walker seeks judgment against White Hall Town Council members
Published 11:46 pm Friday, February 5, 2016
By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
According to court documents, White Hall Mayor James Walker has filed a civil suit in Lowndes County Circuit Court seeking a declaratory judgment against White Hall Town Council members Ceodis Baker, Joyce Barnfield, Glenn Mallard, Ruby Rudolph and Eli Seaborn.
The civil suit was electronically filed on Friday, Feb. 5.
The suit seeks to have the court declare the rights, duties and liabilities of the parties. It also seeks the court to enter an order requiring the council to sign paychecks for employees who have provided work and professional services to the town of White Hall, enter an order requiring the council to sign the necessary documents to pay the attorney fees and costs of the action and enter “such orders, judgments and decrees as may be necessary and proper to give effect to the rights, duties and liabilities of the parties as determined by the court.
Walker is represented by attorney Arlene M. Richardson of Highland Home.
According to the civil suit, “a justiciable controversy exists between the parties’ rights, duties and liabilities by virtue of a rule or regulations of the town of White Hall and or by virtue of defendants’ interpretation by code.”
The civil suit states that the town of White Hall has customarily followed a procedure for town expenditures requiring the mayor and two council members to endorse checks for payments of bills and expenses of the town.
It alleges that Eli Seaborn has refused to sign the paychecks for Town Clerk Shanavia Sellers, Town Attorney Patrick Arrington, Water Board Auditor Margaret Baskerville and Janitor Robert Hrobowski calling it an “unconstitutional violation of the rights” of the employees to refuse to pay them.
The civil suit alleges that on or about Nov. 5, 2015, the mayor adjourned the meeting of the council and that Council members Baker, Barnfield, Rudolph and Seaborn conducted an “illegal meeting” in which they voted to accept the resignation of Council member Glenn Mallard.
It alleges that on or about Dec. 8, 2015 the council conducted an “illegal meeting” after the regular meeting was adjourned by the mayor.
It alleges that on or about Dec. 29, 2015 the council conducted a special meeting where the council voted to replace Glenn Mallard, dismiss all members of the Water Board, dismiss attorney Patrick Arrington, dismiss Town Clerk Shanavia Sellers and appoint a new town clerk.
According to the civil suit, “Said meeting was not called in accordance with the Code of Alabama 11-43-50 which governs specially called meetings.”
It also alleges that on Jan. 7, 2015 a regular meeting of the council was held and adjourned by the mayor and “The defendant councils conducted an illegal meeting after the adjournment and passed a resolution to open a special account for the water and sewer revenues and adopted the minutes of the special meeting conducted on December 29, 2015.”
According to the civil suit, the clerk’s position is appointed in which the council elects a clerk and fixes the salary and term of office. The civil suit states, “Shanavia Sellers was duly elected by the council in 2013 and her term has not ended.” It further states, “The clerk and such other officers elected by the council shall serve until their successor or successors are elected and qualified.”
The civil action alleges the council “illegally terminated the town clerk,” the council has “unconstitutionally refused to pay” the clerk for her services to the town.
The civil suit continues “The mayor also is authorized to appoint a city attorney who shall serve at the pleasure of the mayor and shall be compensated in the matter and at a rate approved by the mayor. In addition to the city attorney, the mayor from time to time in his sole discretion is authorized to obtain additional legal counsel outside of the city merit system to advise and defend him in his capacity of mayor and in the pursuit of the operation of government.”
The civil suit alleges, “The council terminated the services of Town Attorney Patrick Arrington without just cause during its illegal meeting. The council refuses to pay Attorney Patrick Arrington for his services to the town.”
According to the civil action, the mayor is responsible for the proper administration of all affairs of the city and except as otherwise provided, shall have the power and be required to appoint and remove when necessary for the good of the service all officers and employees of the city “expect those appointed by the council.”
It states that to remove persons whose positions are appointed by the council, the mayor must make a recommendation to the council and the recommendation must be voted on and approved by four members of the council.
The civil suit alleges, “The council has unconstitutionally refused to pay Margaret Baskerville, who was hired by the mayor to conduct an audit for the Water Board. Said audit is required by Section 7.6 of the 1977 Series A Revenue Bond that paid for the water system in White Hall.” And it alleges, “The council has unconstitutionally refused to pay Robert Hrobowski, who is the janitor for the town.”
Seaborn, who serves as mayor pro tem for the White Hall Town Council declined to comment.