• 68°

Hayneville Council ‘circus’ continues, acting chief hired

By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

With Justin Pouncey back in his seat, the Hayneville Town Council held a contentious meeting with the public on Monday, June 11, which Council member Lula Tyson-Bailey described as “a circus again.”

Pouncey was asked to step down by Mayor David Daniel at the Monday, May 14 meeting of the council until Lowndes County 2nd Judicial Circuit Court Judge Terri Bozeman Lovell could rule on whether his appointment by the council to his seat was legal or not.

Lovell issued a court order on Tuesday, June 5, that held Pouncey was legally appointed to his seat.

Upon his return to the council, however, the body was confronted with a demand for immediate compensation by terminated Police Chief Kelvin Mitchell.

And after going into executive session, the council approved G. Lashun Hutson, formerly of the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office and the only police officer for the town for the past nine weeks, as “acting police chief.”

Things got off to an ominous start Monday when a motion by Council member Kim Payton to approve the minutes from that May 14 meeting died for lack of a second.

But the council next voted unanimously to grant permission for the town to apply for a $350,000 Community Development Block Grant for a sewer upgrade, which Daniel said required no matching funds.

He said the grant would be used to increase the size of sewer lines from about 4-inches to 6-inches.

The council also heard a request but took no action to allow a property owner, Wayne Russel, of Russell Woodlands LLC off Interstate 65 in the recently approved as an Advantage Site, to tap into a sewer line relocation that strayed onto his property.

The line was relocated by a construction company in connection with Love’s Travel Stop and Country Store. And the construction company agreed to cover the expense connected with the tap request.

Hayneville Attorney Michael G. Strickland advised the council that it would have to approve such a tap pending the approval of an engineering plan to make sure the tap was not for something the sewer system could not handle such as a dog track with a major hotel.

He also said there would also have to be an agreement with the Lowndes County Commission to make sure Hayneville is not losing money in connection with the tap.

Strickland, who had also been the target of termination attempt by the council at a special called meeting, told the council that it can provide for tax assessor, tax collector, chief of police, chief of the fire department, can designate a person to administer oaths and issue warrants of arrests and violations and appoint a town clerk. But, he said, “Other than that, the council cannot hire or fire anyone else.”

Strickland previously stated, “The town council does not have the ability to hire or fire the attorney for the town of Hayneville per Code of Alabama and the legal counsel of the Alabama League of Municipalities. The attorney as well as many other positionare controlled by the mayor only.”

Mitchell appeared before the council to request that he be compensated “immediately” for 13 years and eight months of being on call 24 hours in the amount of $89,000.

Strickland said since that matter would involve litigation and good name and character, discussion would have to take place in executive session.

Acting Police Chief Hutson said he was present for the council meeting because he saw “hiring of a new police chief” on the agenda. He said for the past nine weeks, he has been the only law enforcement officer in Hayneville. And he told the council if already had someone it wants to hire, he “should have been in that process.”

Hutson asked if someone had been selected to which one council responded B.C. Cooper.

At that point the council went into executive session.

After returning from executive session, Daniel recommended Hutson be hired as acting chief of police, which was approved unanimously.

Mitchell was not given an answer by the council concerning his demand for compensation.

Bailey asked that a study be made of the municipal court to determine how much money was brought in, how many tickets were given out in 2017.

And Daniel told the council it was his job to conduct the town audit, which had been on the council’s agenda.

At this point citizens began to speak, including Jimmy Davis, Marcus Lewisand Janet Bell, who said she had a petition signed by 100 people plus those in attendance at Monday night’s meeting to keep Mitchell as chief of police.

After all the public discussion, Hutson told the council, “We need to concentrate on getting that police department equipment up to date where we can get out there… We need to hire some police officers. Right now, I’m the only one, and I can’t work 24 hours… Get me the equipment to do the job.”

He said new police cars on order will need radios and radar.

Following the meeting Daniel said the position of police chief will be advertised and applications will be taken.

When asked if he thought the town could get things straightened out again, Daniel said he is “somewhat optimistic that things are going to bet better for the town of Hayneville.” He said a work session will be scheduled to inform the new council members of what is going on.

But when asked what she thought of Monday’s council meeting Bailey said, “It was a circus again.” She said the crowd falls “back on the previous administration who tended to do what they wanted to do weather it was right or wrong. But when they’ve got four council (members) up here now who want to do right, they don’t want to go along with

it.”Bailey said, however, “Like I say, I don’t care what it is, but I’m going to do what is right.”