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November 5, 2012

(UPDATE) AG gives governor green light to appoint Colony council members

COLONY — On a day when towns across Cullman County swore in new mayors; when newly-elected council administrations met to lay the groundwork for the next four years, Colony spent Monday as a town without a quorum governing body for the first time since its incorporation in 1981.

But the town apparently has some relief on the way. Gov. Robert Bentley received an opinion late Monday from Attorney General Luther Strange that the governor can immediately make appointments to the Colony town council, said state Sen. Paul Bussman, R-Cullman.

According to what Bussman learned Monday, the attorney general has told the governor can make appointments to fill both council seats.

“We can submit names (today) to the governor. If the council can’t elect a mayor after the appointments, they can at least keep the town running. The governor would then have the power to appoint a new mayor after 60 days,” Bussman said.

The town’s outgoing mayor and council were set to hold an 11th-hour meeting Sunday evening; one that could have produced a means for someone to keep paying the city’s bills and depositing its revenues, with only hours remaining before the outgoing six-member administration left office.

Instead, only the mayor and two council members showed up. That left the standing room-only crowd — including Sen. Bussman, who’s been helping town leaders sort out how the town can move forward — watching as former mayor Morris Fitts, along with council members Patrick Ward and Marcus Bradford, lamented the personal infighting and bloc-voting mentality that kept the other council members — Donnis Leeth, Brenda Johnson and Jessie Johnson — from taking part.

Colony’s outgoing council left a lot of assets — and a lot of problems — on the table, but none was more pressing Sunday than ensuring the town hall, a voting precinct, will be open and operating Tuesday during polling hours for the Nov. 6 general election.

Even though a day may soon come when the town’s utilities are shut off and entering the locked town hall could be construed as trespassing, that day at least won’t come before Tuesday. Ex-mayor Fitts ensured the town hall would remain open for the Nov. 6 general election, handing over the building’s keys to the Cullman County sheriff’s office. From there, police can ensure that the town hall will be available to poll workers and to voters, avoiding the profound Constitutional complications that might have arisen if the town hall had shut its doors before election day.

* David Palmer of The Times contributed to this report.

* Benjamin Bullard may be contacted at bbullard@cullmantimes.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 270.

 

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