Archived Story

Banks council in doubt?

Published 10:55pm Friday, June 6, 2014

Banks resident Joel Brentley believes his town could use a few new town council members.
“If they can’t do their damn job, get somebody else,” he said.
According to Mayor Lisa Culpepper, the council’s  job is a relatively simple one.
“Mostly, it’s just the meetings. That’s what they’re responsible for,” she said. “And they are the Water Board. I can handle all of that, but the council has to help make decisions on things.”
Yet, town decisions haven’t been made since April. The May and June meetings were adjourned because they did not have a quorum of three council members to transact town business.
And according to state law, some members of the Council could lose the office if the July meeting is missed as well.
According to Alabama law, “Any elected municipal official who misses all regular and special called council meetings for 90 consecutive days, beginning on the date of any absence, shall be removed from office by operation of law.”
Council members Lynn Wilson and Don Smith joined Culpepper at what was supposed to be the May meeting. Absent were Jeff Hollis, Laura Hollis, Lenardo Brent and Don Smith.
Wilson was the lone council member at this month’s meeting. She and Culpepper discussed the poor attendance and adjourned the meeting.
Culpepper said she would draft a letter stressing responsibility and accountability and send it to all absent members. She is still working on the letter, but has not considered replacing anyone. She thought of the AlabamaC as an optional action the Council can choose to ignore.
According Lori Lein, an attorney with the League of Municipalities, the phrase “by operation of law” means it is not as simple as overlooking the offense.
“It’s an automatic provision,” she said. “If they missed all of the scheduled and special called meetings for 90 consecutive days, they would be removed from office automatically.”
However, the same council members could be reappointed, Lein said. “The council gets to fill the vacancy. There is nothing that prohibits them from reappointing that same member.”
Because of the June absences, the town lost out on a real estate deal that would have provided the town with much-needed space for expansion, the mayor said.
At its April meeting, the council discussed purchasing two properties: the Masons lodge and a vacant Methodist church. Buying either building would mean creating a debt for the town.
Council members Jeff Hollis and Smith were not in full support of the purchases, but were willing to vote with the rest of the council. The meeting was adjourned with plans to discuss the matters again, once more research had been done.
Culpepper said some residents have suggested council members were not in attendance because they did not want the deal to go through and did not want to appear to go on record opposing it.
Culpepper has only heard from Smith, who had a family emergency. Laura Hollis and Brent were absent because of work obligations.
“I was out of town,” said Laura Hollis. “I’m a social worker and sometimes I have to go out of town.”
Culpepper said she is prepared to forgive and forget. “
They’re a wonderful group and sometimes, things happen that you can’t control,” she said. “Being on the council is important to us, but it is not what pays the bills.”
Culpepper said she doesn’t plan to call a special meeting of the council. The regularly scheduled meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. July 7.

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