Hayneville Council remains deadlocked over council seat

Published 10:38 am Friday, November 17, 2017

By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

With the issue of Council member Carole C. Scrushy remaining on the Hayneville Town Council still dividing council members, the Monday, Nov. 13 meeting of the council ended with no actions being approved, except to adjourn.

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The meeting included exchanges between council members and exchanges with the audience.

Items ending unapproved on 3-3 ties were approval of the Oct. 9 organizational/regular council meeting minutes, continued use of Recovery Discovery Systems for sale tax collections, acceptance of $20,000 from Alabama Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) toward a $250,000 sidewalk project and payment of the town’s bills.

The council heard from David Campbell of Utility Service Company, Inc. regarding water tank maintenance for the town.

He said the town has used his since 2003. However, he said maintenance of the downtown tank due now inside and out has been put on hold due to back invoices now totally $57,000 in arears.

Campbell offered 10-year service on all three of the town’s water tanks in downtown, Letohatchee and Tyson saying, “We’ll forget the $57,000 and start fresh.”

Helenor Bell, economic development director and project manager for Hayneville, pointed out that water tank servicing affects the quality of the town’s water for its citizens. She also said, “We’ve been passing up some grants and free money lately.”

She said the cost for tank serving is about $249,000, and the town just passed up a $350,000 grant. And, she said, “It’s kind of important because somebody eventually going to reap the repercussions of not allowing yourselves to receive the grant money for the citizens of Hayneville, which affects the quality of water.”

No action was taken regarding the water tanks.

Yolanda Watkins of RDS next appeared before the council about sales tax collection for the city. She said her company has been collecting taxes for Hayneville for the past 14 years, but she said the contract with RDS expired in February of this year.

“It’s important that we get it renewed so we can continue getting the sales tax revenue to you all in a timely manner,” Watkins said.

She said law requires that a contact for her company’s service to be in place before the end of the year. And she said she could not allow her company’s services it to go on for the town without a contract renewal.

The vote to renew failed on a 3-3 tie.

Bell told the council repairs to the lift station at the sewer lagoon have been repaired. And she said the town has received approval for $250,000 sidewalk project from town square to the Lowndes County Health Department, which will be advertised for bid.

She said she hoped the project authorized in 2015 will go to local contractors.

However, she said, $20,000 from Alabama Resource Conservation and Development RC&D is about to pulled back from the town for the project. She said council tied 3-3 on a vote for those funds previously and asked the council to reconsider because that would be $20,000 the town would not have to pay.

Once again a vote to accept the $20,000 from RC&D failed on a 3-3 tie.

Bell also reported that a $500,000 water meter project will also be advertised for bid.

Town Clerk Susan Smith said, “I don’t know what’s going on. We just need to come together. It’s doing something to me.”

Council member Kim Payton said, “We can sit here month after month due to the fact that Ms. Carole Schrushy is sitting in a seat. This shouldn’t have anything to do with whether she is sitting here or somebody else. We are passing on all these free grants due to people like the three of them (Sharon Reeves, Cynthia McDonald and Lula Tyson-Bailey) saying no to the vote.”

Bailey responded, “The three of us voted no because this town and part of this council… they don’t care anything about the law. When a court sends an order, you follow that order until a higher court rules otherwise.”

Bailey was referring to an order by Lowndes County Circuit Court Judge Terri Bozeman Lovell on Aug. 4 declaring the election of May 23, 2017, in which Scrushy was elected to be void and stating that any other order contrary to the trial court’s Order of July 7, 2017, was invalid “absent a higher court ruling.”

Upon coming back to order, a vote by the council to pay the town’s bills also failed on a 3-3 tie.

Schrushy asked, “Do you know what a writ of mandamus is?” She said the question of her being on the council was taken to a higher court, the state supreme court. “And it has been taken as a writ of mandamus and it has been accepted. So, until that is settled, I’m going to sit right here. And when they tell me I am not in this position, I’ll walk out and smile and sit right out there from then on. But until then, I was elected and the writ of mandamus says that I sit right here. And I’m just doing what it tells me to. Doing what the supreme court says.”

When contacted Michael G. Strickland, an attorney who represents the town of Hayneville, said of the writ of mandamus sought by Scrushy and the town of Hayneville on Aug. 9,

“Writ of mandamus are used only under a few specific circumstances. The writ of mandamus is a drastic and extraordinary writ that will be issued only when there is: 1) a clear legal right in the petitioner to the order sought, 2) an imperative duty upon the respondent to perform, accompanied by a refusal to do so, 3) the lack of another adequate remedy, and 4) properly invoked jurisdiction of the court.”

He said, “I am not sure of the percentage of times that it happens, but it is my understanding that most of the time a writ of mandamus is not accepted by the Supreme Court.  I began practicing law in 1994 and I am aware of less than five cases of mine that have been submitted and accepted by the court on a writ of mandamus. The court accepted the writ and now the other side has to file a response.  Writs are rarely accepted by the supreme Court but this one has been accepted.”

According to a copy of the petition for the writ, “Based on the plaintiffs’ failure to follow the election contest statute, the trial court did not have jurisdiction over the election contest and its judgment is thus void. Conclusion: For the reasons set forth herein, Petitioners Carole Scrushy and the Town of Hayneville respectfully request that this honorable court issue a writ of mandamus and direct the Honorable Terri Lovell to vacate her order denying the Town of Hayneville’s Motion to Dismiss and enter an order granting the motion on grounds of lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.”

In each case at Monday’s council meeting, Mayor David Daniel, Schrushy and Payton all voted “yes” on action matters and Council members  Reeves, McDonald and-Bailey all voted “no.”