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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Local Alabama Political Shenanigans Alleged

(CN) - A County Commission in Alabama held two illegal meetings to conduct the business of assigning courthouse security, putting politics ahead of compliance with the state's competitive bid law, a lawsuit filed in state court claims.

Plaintiff Roy Burnett, identifying himself as "a taxpayer and resident" of Chilton County, Ala., sued the county and the Chilton County Commission, claiming they violated Alabama's open meetings and competitive bid laws.

Burnett claims that during a regularly-scheduled meeting on July 14, 2014, the commission moved to executive session to discuss courthouse security. Burnett says in doing so, the commissioners, "failed to notify the Chilton County Sheriff of the executive session despite the fact that they had previously assigned him the responsibility for courthouse security."

Burnett believes there was far more going on at the meeting than a simple lapse in procedures.

"Instead of notifying the Sheriff of Chilton County of the executive session, the Defendants notified and invited John Shearon, the Republican candidate for the office of Sheriff in the upcoming general election," Burnett says. "Upon further information and belief, Wilson, the Democratic candidate for the office of Sheriff in the same election was directed to leave and was not permitted to attend the executive session."

"Upon information and belief, Eddie Price, the Independent candidate for the office of Sheriff in the same election was not notified of the meeting or the proposed executive session," Burnett says.

At the conclusion of the executive session, the county commission resumed its regular meeting and adopted a resolution authorizing its chairman, defendant Allen Caton, to "implement a plan for courthouse security."

A month later, the commission convened a "special meeting" without proper notice and formally passed a resolution contracting with the City of Clanton, Ala., to provide security at the county courthouse.

At the same time, it adopted a resolution taking away the appointment of the current sheriff, Kevin Davis, "as head of Security over Court House and annex buildings ..."

Burnett claims the personnel who have been provided by the city are not "sworn and certified law enforcement officers" and that no contract has been signed between the county and city, as required by state law.

Burnett says, "Instead of conducting a discussion of courthouse security with the chief law enforcement officer of Chilton County, the Defendants discussed courthouse security with the Republican candidate for Sheriff, an individual with no authority to perform any act on behalf of the County, the County Commission or the Sheriff. Alabama law does not authorize a governmental body to conduct an executive session to discuss courthouse security with mere candidates for elected office."

He also asserts that "Alabama law does not authorize executive sessions for the purpose of deliberating how to circumvent the competitive bid law."

Burnett is asking the court to declare the contract between the Chilton County Commission and the City of Clanton void. He is also asking the court to force defendants to comply with the Open Meetings Law and the Competitive Bid Law.

He is represented by attorneys Jeffrey Sewell and French McMillan, of Sewell & Sewell LLC in Jasper, Ala.

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