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Alabama Supreme Court Hayneville Election Decision Timeline

By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

According to court documents, the timeline of events that led to a decision by Alabama Supreme Court upholding Lowndes County Circuit Judge Terri Bozeman Lovell’s order that the May 23 election of Hayneville Council member Carole C. Scrushy was illegal and void is as follows:

The town of Hayneville petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Lowndes Circuit Court “ to vacate its July 7, 2017 order denying the town and (Carole C.) Scrushy’s motion to dismiss what they characterized as an election contest filed by Darshini Brandy, Connie Johnson and Justin Pouncey (hereinafter referred to collectively as ‘the electors’) and to enter an order dismissing the electors’ action.”

According to court documents released Friday, March 9, The Alabama Supreme Court denied that petition.

Timeline:

August 26, 2016 Hayneville held a general election to elect a mayor and five council members with the winners to take office in November 2016.

Mayor David Daniel won in a runoff election. Cynthia Perryman (McDonald) and Sharon Reeves got the most votes for District B. And for District A, getting the most votes were Kim Payton, Roy Meadows, Lula Tyson-Bailey, Carole C. Scrushy and Rickey Bell.

The Hayneville Town Council met and declared Perryman (McDonald) and Reeves the winners of District B and issued certificates of election. But the council refused to declare the winners for District A.

On August 29, 2016 Scrushy and Bell filed an election contest challenge challenging Meadow’s eligibility to serve for District A. And the Lowndes County Circuit Court entered an order declaring the election of Meadows to be void and directing the council to fill the vacant position according to state election law.

On Nov. 3, 2016 electors (Darshini Bandy, Connie Johnson and Justin Pouncey) filed a petition for a writ of mandamus asking the circuit court to direct the council to perform its duty and declare Payton and Tyson-Bailey winning candidates for two of the District A council seats and issue certificates of election. The circuit court granted that petition of Jan. 5, 2017 ordering Payton and Tyson-Bailey be sworn in for District A, that the council failed to perform its duties to declare them the winners and issue certificates of election. Also, the court reserved the authority to enforce its order.

However, on Nov. 11, 2016 the town filed in federal court challenging as void the Aug. 26, 2016 council election for District A or, in the alternative, seeking a declaration that Payton, Tyson-Bailey and Scrushy were winners of District A. The town also filed in circuit court a motion to dismiss the elector’s petition for a writ of mandamus or stay the petition pending a ruling in federal court.

The council issued certificates of election to Payton and Tyson-Bailey and they were sworn in.

However, Mayor Daniel and Payton failed or fused to attend council meeting, not allowing a quorum and not allowing the council to fulfill its obligation to fill the vacant council seat in District A.

After 90 days, then Governor Robert Bentley directed the probate judge to call a special election to fill the vacancy.

The probate judge ordered the special election for March 21, 2017 declaring that Bell and Scrushy were the only candidates to be on the ballot.

After announcement of the special election, Pouncey attempted to file as a candidate, but the town clerk refused based on the probate court order.

On March 10, 2017 the electors moved the circuit court to enforce its prior orders “directing strict compliance with the election laws and, more specifically, to direct the town’s governing body to accept Pouncey’s paperwork to qualify as a candidate…”

On March 17, the circuit court entered an order that the date for the special election was defective because it fell on the third Tuesday in March not allowed by law.

The circuit court ordered that a new election date be provided, to give the required notice of election, set qualifying deadlines for qualified electors who desired to be candidates.

Daniel provided a special election date of May 23, 2017, which resulted in Scrushy receiving the majority of the votes for the seat in District A.

The council, however, did not meet to certify and declare her the winner.

On May 26, 2017 the electors filed a second motion to enforce the court’s prior orders to declare the May 23, 2017 special election invalid “on the basis that the town’s governing body was usurped of its mandatory role in ordering the special election.”

The electors further asserted that the town’s governing body must appoint the qualified electors of the respective wards to hold the election, which was “legally impossible” because Daniel and Payton refused to attend council meeting, denying a quorum of the council to order the special election.

On June 6, the town moved for the circuit court to enforce its prior orders and “to declare Scrushy the winner of the May 23,2017 special election and order that she be sworn in.” The town also moved to dismiss the electors second motion to enforce prior orders on the basis “the motion to enforce was an election contest over which the circuit court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction.”

On June 20, 2017, the circuit court conducted a hearing and on July 7 2017 entered an order declaring void the May 23, 2017 special election as illegal.

The circuit court found Daniel “willfully and deliberately chose not to follow the prior orders of the court requiring town officials to strictly follow Alabama law governing municipal elections.

The court further ordered that Daniel, Payton, Tyson-Bailey, Reeves and Perryman (McDonald) appear at Hayneville Town Hall at 7 p.m. on Monday July 10, 2017 and conduct “such business as the council chooses to conduct until the council meeting is either lawfully continued or adjourned.”

At some point before the meeting, the probate judge entered an order “purporting to void all the orders entered by the circuit court concerning the special election, declaring Scrushy to be the duly elected winner of the vacant District A council seat, and directing that Scrushy be sown in as a council member for District A.”

According to the electors Scrushy attended and continued to attend all council meetings.

On Aug. 4, 2017 the circuit court entered an order reaffirming its July 7, 2017 order declaring the May 23, 2017 special election void.

The town then petitioned for a writ of mandamus to the Alabama Supreme Court directing the Lowndes Circuit Court to vacate its July 7, 2017 order denying the town and Scrushy’s motion to dismiss “what they characterized” as an election contest filed by Darshini Brandy, Connie Johnson, and Justin Pouncey and to enter an order dismissing the electors action.

The Alabama Supreme Court denied the petition.