Hayneville special election postponed amid residents’ concerns - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Hayneville special election postponed amid residents’ concerns

(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)

A Lowndes County judge has found several issues surrounding a special election set for this week in the town of Hayneville and ordered that it be pushed back until the proper notice can be given to voters. The election was scheduled for March 21 to fill a vacancy on the city council, but that’s now changed.

The judge’s order is also reopening the race, allowing anyone interested in the position to qualify.

Recently, residents called on Alabama's governor and attorney general to investigate their town’s government in a letter outlining different issues. A current councilwoman says the council has not held a meeting since she was sworn in on Nov. 7, causing concern that the business of Hayneville is not being conducted.

On August 23 Hayneville held its municipal election. The town consists of two districts: District A, which has three council members, and District B, which has two council members.

District B elected Cynthia McDonald and Sharon Reeves. District A elected Lula Tyson Bailey, Roy Meadows, and Kim Payton (who was re-elected).

Roy Meadows was disqualified due to his past criminal record, leaving a vacancy which the old council members thought they should fill with one of the losing candidates. Per the municipal laws of the State of Alabama, the newly elected council has the authority to fill the vacancy, according to Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.

But the Town of Hayneville took the matter to federal court and filed a complaint with the District Court of the United States for the Middle District of Alabama, requesting that the court declare the results of the election for District A to be void or to declare the losing candidate with the next highest votes the winner. The special election was then set for March 21 with Scrushy and Bell on the ballot.

Fed up residents formed the Concerned Citizens of Hayneville called their government a “mess” and said the town needs outside help to get the town running properly. Members of the group believe that there were political maneuvers behind the scenes of the special election in an effort to bring back those who lost their seats to newcomers back in August, to keep the old city council intact.

 “We feel that there was a lot of unfairness going on after the municipal election in August. Several new candidates won office to the seat of council members but apparently, the old council members who lost their seats and now they refuse to give them up,” said Connie Johnson, a concerned citizen. “A lot of mismanagement is going on and if newly elected officials come in then all of that will be exposed.”

She says Carole Scrushy and Rickey Bell lost in the August municipal election and were the only two names on the ballot for the special election.

“We were also told that those are going to be the only two names placed on the ballot. We had one guy who came up to qualify but they refused to let him qualify to have his name put on the ballot,” she said.

The man who wanted to be on the ballot, Justin Pouncey, fought Hayneville’s refusal to allow him to become a candidate in the special election. On Friday night, an order came down from Lowndes County Circuit Judge Terri Bozeman Lovell siding with Pouncey.

The judge found that the date set for holding the special election in Hayneville was defective as a matter of law because it is not an allowed Tuesday (special elections can only be held on the second or fourth Tuesday of the month) and it does not comply with the notice requirements set forth by the law.

Voters must have 60 days notice of a special municipal election and the judge indicated that Hayneville officials provided only 36 days notice.

“Consequently, as a result of the illegal scheduling of the election, the Court has no choice but to continue the election from March 21, 2017, to a later legal date to be set by the Town of Hayneville under the mandate of the election laws governing municipal elections in Alabama,” Judge Lovell wrote in her order.

She also ordered that all candidates will be allowed to qualify for the election.

The portion of a previous probate order that allowed only the names of Carole Scrushy and Rickey Bell to appear on the ballot in the District A election was declared void by Judge Lovell.

She indicated that the court requested that the Town of Hayneville supplement their arguments in writing with any legal basis to support the probate order limiting the candidates to Carole Scrushy and Rickey Bell but Hayneville officials “provided no legal authority for the manner in which the special election has been ordered.”

“The Mayor and the Town Council could have legally filled the vacancy in District A, the Governor of Alabama could have legally filled the vacancy in District A, and although the Town of Hayneville’s contention that the special election should not be open to other qualified electors other than Carole Scrushy and Rickey Bell, this Court can find no statute or case law to support that position,” the judge added in her order.

The mayor and town council are now directed to provide the court with a “new and legal” special election date on or before March 24th, give the required notice of the election, set the qualifying deadline for the qualified elections in order to fill the vacancy in District A.

Calls over the past week to Hayneville Mayor David Daniel for comment have not been returned. 

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