White Hall Town Hall closed Thursday, hearing for preliminary injunction against council set
Published 5:44 pm Thursday, February 11, 2016
By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
White Hall, which was closed for business last Thursday afternoon in connection with an ongoing dispute between the mayor and the Town Council, remained closed Tuesday morning. And a request for a preliminary injunction against the town council in the matter, filed by White Hall Mayor James Walker, has been set for a hearing in Lowndes County Circuit Court for Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 10:30 a.m.
Lowndes County Circuit Court Judge Terri Bozeman Lovell issued an order on Friday setting a hearing for the preliminary injunction request.
According to information provided by Arlene Richardson, a Highland Home attorney representing Walker, after personnel in White Hall Town Hall were asked to leave by local law enforcement on Thursday, Walker locked the building and everyone left.
White Hall Mayor Pro Tem Eli Seaborn said while he was not present at town hall on Thursday, he confirmed that a local law enforcement officer asked personnel in the building to leave because they had been dismissed (by the White Hall Town Council) since December.
Richardson said from what she was told, a White Hall police officer requested the custodian, water board auditor and chairman of the water board leave the offices (of town hall), “And they sat there until the mayor could come and lock everything up.”
The Lowndes Signal confirmed Thursday afternoon that White Hall Town Hall was locked and no personnel were present.
According to court documents, Walker filed a motion on Thursday, Feb. 11, for a temporary restraining order against Ceodis Baker, Joyce Barnfield, Glenn Mallard, Ruby Rudolph and Eli Seaborn in their official capacities as council persons of the town of White Hall.
The motion by Walker alleges the defendants “are engaged in and threatening to conduct the following illegal actions on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016:
“a. Physically remove, the Clerk, Shanvia Sellers from her position with the town without just cause and without due process;
“b. Remove and change the locks to the offices of the town of White Hall;
“c. Appoint a new Town Clerk;
“d. Appoint a new Town Attorney;
“e. Dismiss the members of the Water and Sewer Board.”
Walker also alleges in his motion that unless the court “grants an order restraining defendants from conducting illegal meeting and votes, unconstitutionally refusing to pay employees and contractors, illegally barring the mayor and other employees from the offices of the town of White Hall” that “immediate and irreparable loss and/or damage” to the town of White Hall will occur before notice can be served and a hearing held.
Walker requested a temporary restraining order prohibiting the defendants “from conducting further meetings except those regularly scheduled and specially called meetings that are conducted in accordance with Alabama law.
He also sought to require Seaborn and Rudolph to sign paychecks including back pay for Shanvia Sellers, clerk; Patrick Arrington, town attorney; Margaret Baskerville, auditor; Robert Hrobowki, janitor, and Arlene Richardson, special counsel.
He also asked the court to “Issue a temporary order suspending all actions voted and passed in meetings illegally held” and that the court would set a date within 10 days for a hearing on a preliminary injunction.
The Signal attempted to contact Walker and Prince Chestnut, an attorney the White Hall Town Council voted to hire for legal advice, for comment on Thursday. Walker did not respond, and Chestnut said he was not prepared to comment on the matter Thursday.
According to court documents, on Friday, Feb. 12th, Lovell issued the following Order:
“This matter is before the court on the motion for temporary restraining order and for a hearing on the request for preliminary injunction. The court upon consideration is of the opinion that the matter should be set for a hearing on the plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction.
“It is therefore ordered and adjudged and decreed that the above styled cause be and is hereby set for hearing on the 23rd day of Feb. 2016 at 10:30 a.m… on the plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction.”
Bozeman also ordered that a copy of the order be served on the defendants along with a copy of the summons and complaint.