Hayneville council votes to terminate, dismantle 3 top positions

Wednesday during a special called meeting the Hayneville town council voted to terminate Police Chief Kelvin Mitchell and City Attorney Michael Strickland, as well as dismantle the Economic Development position held by Helenor Bell. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Wednesday during a special called meeting the Hayneville town council voted to terminate Police Chief Kelvin Mitchell and City Attorney Michael Strickland, as well as dismantle the Economic Development position held by Helenor Bell. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

HAYNEVILLE, AL (WSFA) - Wednesday during a special called meeting the Hayneville town council voted to terminate Police Chief Kelvin Mitchell and City Attorney Michael Strickland, as well as dismantle the Economic Development position held by Helenor Bell.

Lula Tyson-Bailey, Sharon Reeves, Cynthia Reeves, and Justin Pouncey were the only council members in attendance. Mayor David Daniel and town council member Kim Payton were not present to vote.

Following the vote terminating Mitchell as police chief he did address the council asking for the reason for his dismissal from the position. Council member Lula Tyson-Bailey told him they would give a reason at the next council meeting in May.

"There is no reason at all for my termination. I do not have a single demerit in my record, not once have I been complained on in 14 years," said Kelvin Mitchell.

Mitchell confirms he does have legal counsel and plans to evaluate what he will do next.

According to City Attorney Michael Strickland, while the council has the authority to terminate the police chief and dismantle the economic development position they do not have the power to terminate his position.

"The only person that can hire or fire the town council is the mayor.  After far as a town of this size the only positions that can be filled and hired and fired by the town council is chief of police, clerk, judge, chief of the fire department, and I believe the magistrate may also be," said Strickland.

There is also questions swirling on whether or not Justin Pouncey, who was appointed by the council to the vacant District A seat back in March, is able to fill that position.

"He is not a council person. The only way that seat can be filled is through an election. There is a court order right now that says the only way to fill that position is through a special election," said Strickland. "There is some grey area. I believe since there is a vacancy then the council consist of a total of five so whether three makes a quorum or not that is going to be an issue."

Strickland confirms Monday he filed a request for Circuit Judge Terri Lovell to enforce her orders for a special election.

"We are asking Judge Lovell to enforce her orders against the members of the council who are refusing to hold a special election. I would suspect Judge Lovell will rule on something like this very quickly because otherwise the town is in limbo," said Strickland.

The previous person to hold the vacant seat was Carol Scrushy, but that filling of the council seat was deemed by the Lowndes County Circuit Judge to be "illegal and void." That decision was upheld by the Supreme Court of Alabama.

It started after the August 2016 municipal election. The town consists of two districts: District A, which has three council members, and District B, which has two council members.

In August, District B elected Cynthia McDonald and Sharon Reeves. District A elected Lula Tyson Bailey, Roy Meadows, and Kim Payton.

Meadows won but was later disqualified due to his past criminal record, leaving a vacancy. Concerns mounted in the community as citizens called out the council for not having meetings and doing what needs to be done to run the town.

A special election was then set for March 21, 2017, but it was postponed after a judge found that election date was defective. Voters must have 60 days notice of a special municipal election and Lowndes County Circuit Judge Terri Bozeman Lovell indicated that Hayneville officials provided only 36 days notice.

The special election was then scheduled for May 23, 2017 and Carole Scrushy won.

On July 7, 2017, Judge Lovell filed an order indicating that the May 23, 2017 election was "illegal and void"' because the city did not follow municipal election laws. She took testimony and received evidence from the plaintiffs - listed as Darshini Bandy, Connie Johnson and Justin Pouncey - and the defendants - listed as Carol Scrushy, Kim Payton, Rickey Bell and George Lee Davis.

After considering the testimony, pleadings, motion, and arguments of council, Lovell wrote that the Hayneville mayor "willfully and deliberately chose not to follow the prior orders of this court requiring the town and its officials to strictly follow the Alabama statutes that govern municipal elections."

The judge said Mayor David Daniel admitted during his testimony that he and another council member, Kim Payton, failed to attend a single regularly scheduled council meeting in 2017, which prevented any council action for lack of a quorum.

Judge Lovell also wrote that the mayor "took it upon himself to set the special election for May 23, 2017, without the knowledge or permission of the town council."

Lowndes County Probate Judge John Hulett fired back at Lovell's findings and her order, saying she was out of line and overstepping her authority.

Judge Lovell also wrote that the mayor "took it upon himself to set the special election for May 23, 2017, without the knowledge or permission of the town council."

After being deadlocked on a number of appointments back in November 2017, Mayor David Daniel felt that an upcoming meeting with the League of Municipalities would provide some guidance and help get some of the issues resolved.

The Supreme Court of Alabama denied a petition filed by the town of Hayneville and Carol Scrushy for a writ of mandamus directing the Lowndes Circuit Court to vacate its July 7, 2017 decision.

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