Locks changed by council on White Hall Town Hall, hearing for preliminary injunction against council set

Published 6:11 pm Wednesday, February 17, 2016

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By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
The locks on town have been changed, and it is the intention of the White Hall Town Council to keep personnel it dismissed out of the building until a hearing on a preliminary injunction against the council requested by White Hall Mayor James Walker is heard.
Walker contends that the meeting at which personnel were dismissed was “illegal.”
The personnel dismissed by the council were asked to leave last Thursday. And Walker locked the building after they left.
Tuesday, White Hall Council members were present outside the building to keep the dismissed personnel out.
And it was confirmed by White Hall Mayor Pro Tem Eli Seaborn on Wednesday that the council had the locks to the building changed on Tuesday.
Seaborn said, however, keys are available to Walker and “We don’t have any problem giving him his key.”
Lowndes County Circuit Court Judge Terri Bozeman Lovell issued an order on Friday setting a hearing for the preliminary injunction request filed by Walker for Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 10:30 a.m.
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 last Thursday, Walker locked the building and everyone left.
White Hall Mayor Pro Tem Eli Seaborn said while he was not present at town hall last 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 last Thursday afternoon that White Hall Town Hall was locked and no personnel were present.
As of Tuesday, Seaborn said it was the intention of the council to keep the dismissed personnel out of the building until the hearing on the preliminary injunction is held.
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.
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.
The Signal interviewed Walker outside White Hall Town Hall on Tuesday.
He said, “I think it the ludicrous what is transpiring here.”
He said the council does not have legal documents requesting that they do what they are doing. He said they were basing their actions on a Dec. 29 meeting where they voted to dismiss certain people.
He said, “I don’t have a problem with any of it. I think the court will solve the issue. And this little charade here is not becoming of professional people as far as people that are governing this community. But I will stand fast in my decision not to give the keys to people that they have employed illegally to in and do day to day business because as mayor I am responsible for whatever goes on in that business office.”
He said if the council wanted to change the keys to the building, which he said would mean he was locked out as well, “I think its a matter that the court needs to look at very closely and make a decision on that.”
Seaborn confirmed on Wednesday that Bertha White is now working as White Hall Town Clerk and that the building is open for business.
Walker’s attorney stated Wednesday based on the changing of the locks, she was renewing Walker’s motion for a temporary restraining oder against the council.

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