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In Hayneville Council case, Court rules Pouncey’s appointment legal, no special election ordered

By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

According to a court order issued by Lowndes County 2nd Judicial Circuit Court Judge Terri Bozeman Lovell on Tuesday, June 5, she never ordered a special election to be held by the town of Hayneville.

Her order also holds that Justin Pouncey was legally appointed to the Hayneville Town Council, but dismisses the removal of Hayneville Council member Kim Payton and Mayor David Daniel for missing meetings.

Lovell’s order was issued in regard to civil case CV-016-000013.00, the Hayneville Municipal Election case.

Plaintiffs in the case asked the court to declare that Daniel and Payton lost their positions on the council. And defendants in the case had asked the court to enter an order requiring another special election, declaring Justin Pouncey’s appointment to the town council was “illegal and void.”

Lovell declined to grant any of the requested relief.

According to court documents, “Contrary to certain assertions that have been made by the defendants, this court never ordered a special election to be held by the town of Hayneville.”

Lovell wrote, “This court played no part in the calling of the special election in 2017 and has no authority to order another special election as requested by the defendants.”

Lovell’s order states that an examination of the council’s minutes “clearly shows that a quorum was present” on March 21, 2018, and, “all five members apparently agreed to take up the issue of appointing Justin Pouncey to fill the vacancy because it was taken up and debated; all five members of the council voted on the appointment; and a majority of the members of the council voted to appoint Pouncey to fill the vacancy.”

Lovell’s order states, “The town council fulfilled its lawful duty when it voted to appoint Justin Pouncey to fill the District A vacant seat.”

Regarding matters not on a council agenda, Lovell cited, “A governmental body may discuss at a meeting additional matters not included in the preliminary agenda.” She wrote in her order, “In this case, one of the agenda items on the special meeting’s agenda involved filling the vacancy in District A.” She also wrote, “The issue of the vacancy in the District A seat was clearly on the special meeting agenda and the council legally and lawfully chose to fill it under the legislative authority…”

As to removing Payton and Daniei for missing all council meetings over a 90-day period by operation of law, Lovell wrote in her order that “any issues involving the operation of said statute should first be addressed by the town council.” And she wrote that in light of the court’s decision not to take up the removal by operation of law issues, the plaintiff’s complaint is due to be dismissed without prejudice, as well as the defendant’s counterclaim.

Plaintiffs in the case were Darshini Bandy, Connie Johnson and Justin Pouncey. Defendants were Carole Scrushy, Kim Payton, Rickey Bell and George Lee Davis, et al.

It should be pointed out that according to court documents related to a petition for writ of mandamus, the matter of a special election came up as follows:

“After Payton and (Lula) Tyson-Bailey were sworn in, however, Mayor Daniel and Payton failed or refused to attend any council meetings, thereby denying the Town’s governing body a quorum and, more specifically, not allowing it to fulfill its obligation to fill the vacant council seat that existed in District A. After the council seat had remained unfilled for more than 90 days, then Governor Robert Bentley directed the probate judge to call a special election to fill the vacancy.”

Attorney Jerry Thornton represented the plaintiffs Darshini Bandy, Connie Johnson and Justin Pouncey and Michael G. Strickland represented the defendants Carole C. Scrushy, Kim Payton, Rickey, Bell, George Davis and Sheryl Phifer. Strickland and attorney Rick A. Howard also represented Scrushy and the Town of Hayneville in seeking a writ of mandamus in the matter from the Alabama Supreme Court which was denied.

The Signal reached out to Thornton, Strickland and Daniel, but has not received a response.