Eutaw Council disagrees with Mayor over city attorney

At the regular meeting of the Eutaw City Council on Tuesday, December 14, the council once again tried to convince Mayor Raymond Steele to seek another city attorney.
Shelia Smith made the motion that the city advertise the post of city attorney.
Steele refused to accept the motion, saying it was out of order.
He also said that the council had no reason to be dissatisfied with the current attorney Mike Smith.
“What about the cost?” asked councilmember Ralph Liverman, and added dates and times that one or more councilmember complained to Steele about Smith.
Councilmember Hattie Edwards told Steele he could not just disregard a motion from the council that had been made and seconded. Steele said he could if the motion was out of order.
After more complaints from the council, Steele suggested a 7 a.m. meeting on Wednesday, December 22.
Edwards replied that the matter could be settled right then – that they were in a public meeting.
Steele refused to consider the motion. At this point, Liverman suggested that a meeting be called for 7 a.m. on Tuesday, December 21. This was approved by the council.

Grant okayed in 2004 still
not utilized

The next item to be discussed was a grant approved for the city in 2004.
Councilwoman Edwards wanted to know why the money had not been used and if the $79,000 matching money the city had to have was still in the budget.
Steele advised her that this money had never been in the budget – that it was to have been borrowed.
He told them that he could not control ADECA and it was not his actions which were slowing up the grant. He said that he would try to contact the persons necessary to move forward with the grant.New Water and Sewer Rates
for Southfresh passed

The council unanimously approved a contract for one year setting water and sewage rates for Southfresh Catfish Processing Plant.
Southfresh will pay a total of $3,000 per month for water and sewage. At the end of the year-long contract, a new contract will be negotiated.
The next item to be discussed concerned the roads in Branch Heights and King Village.
Councilpersons Joe Powell and Hattie Edwards, both of whom represent parts of the area under discussion, told the mayor that something has to be done about the condition of the roads.
Steele advised them that the county had assumed responsibility for the roads being discussed and any questions they had should be directed to them.
Edwards reminded Steele that the last time he ran for Mayor, he told people in these areas that he had a letter from ALDOT (Alabama Department of Transportation) advising that they were going to fix the roads. “What happened?” she asked.
“The city of Eutaw is maintaining the roads for which we are responsible,” retorted Steele. “The county chose to take these roads and we should let them!”
Powell advised him that residents in the area affected by the roads had organized a committee and had contacted “6 on Your Side,” a television news show that features investigative journalists discussing various inequities around the state. According to Powell, the reporters had agreed to do a show in Eutaw which would go out all over the state.
Another issue unanimously approved was to allow Let Thy Kingdom Come Outreach Ministry to use the city bus to transport approximately 100 youth to Atlanta to pick up toys and food with the city providing the bus driver, gas and bus. This decision was later rescinded when it was discovered that the bus had already been booked for that day.
Council members suggested that a record of who has the bus rented and when would be helpful in making decisions as to whether or not it is available.
In the public comment period following the business meeting, one citizen told Steele that he had taken responsibility for the Branch Heights/King Village roads and that the citizens should not have to fight to get them repaired.
Another citizen admonished the council, saying that they should work more closely with the mayor.
After hearing several more comments, the meeting was adjou rned with plans to meet again on Tuesday at 7 a.m.

Tuesday Meeting

At the Tuesday meeting, which had been transformed to a working session, nothing was immediately done to change the city attorney’s status.
Steele was adamant that he and only he had the authority to hire and fire city employees. Councilmembers objected to his interpretation of the rules. Councilman David Spencer said that when the mayor said a motion was out of order, the council could address disposition of the matter and possibly overrule the mayor.
He admitted that the mayor had certain powers but the council had an ordinance which gives the council the power to question certain decisions.
“When a motion is made and seconded,” said Councilwoman Edwards, “it is on the floor and should be voted up or down.
Steele disagreed, saying that if a motion is made by the council concerning an action over which that the body has no authority to proceed, then the motion is out of order.
It was brought out that City Attorney Mike Smith receives $1,500 per month as a retainer and gets $195 per hour, as well as 50.5¢ a mile travel expenses. Smith did say he didn’t bill the city for portions of hours. It was also revealed that Smith did not have a contract with the city.
According to Mayor Steele, he reappointed Attorney Mike Smith in 2008 for a four year duration.
He stated that the council cannot change this since the council cannot hire or fire, only approve or disapprove. “The City Ordinance of April 2010 confirms this,” said Steele.
Because this meeting had been labeled as a working meeting, no motions were made nor was any official action taken.
The council merely discussed various issues without taking any action.
They were advised by the Mayor that he had spoken with someone at ADECA about the pending grant and that a meeting would be scheduled after the holidays.

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