PELHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Monday municipalities across Alabama selected City Council leadership, but the city of Pelham did not.
“We have a conflict in two procedural laws regarding how a president of the city council is elected,” said Pelham Mayor Gary Waters.
Title 11 of the Alabama Code directs newly elected city council bodies to assemble on the first Monday in November after the election to organize the council. That includes selecting a new city council president.
“We by law are mandated to elect leadership,” explained councilman Maurice Mercer.
The nominee would need a majority vote from the council to take over the position. In Pelham, there are five council members, so that’s three votes.
But also according to the code, a council member cannot vote on any issue in which they have a financial interest. In Pelham, the council president makes $100 more per month than other members.
“That’s a violation of the ethics law should that council member that’s nominated vote for themselves,” said Waters. “We need to know how to move forward and how to break the tie if it’s necessary.”
The concern Monday was that the council wouldn’t be able to achieve a majority in the vote should more than one member be nominated for council president because the nominees would not vote for themselves.
“Other municipalities have concluded with a voice vote, nominated and elected themselves,” said Mercer.
But instead of voting, a motion was made to table the issue until the next meeting. Councilman Rick Hayes said over the phone he abstained from the vote on that motion because he believes the Code of Alabama is very clear: The council should organize during the first meeting.
“We don’t want the ethics commission to move that a vote was done prematurely and not in proper protocol and then remove the council member,” said Mercer.
“We’ve simply deferred this question to the Attorney General to see if we’re doing it the right way,” said Waters.
Now they’re waiting for a response. While they’re hopeful the response comes quickly, Hayes said it could take some time.
Hayes also said that at the advice of legal counsel, he will remain the acting council president until a new one is elected.