Saturday, June 4, 2011

Alabama Supreme Court rules mayors have power to hire and fire municipal employees

MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- In Alabama, mayors alone have the power to hire and fire municipal employees, according to a state Supreme Court ruling in a Birmingham-area case that apparently also resolves the key dispute underpinning long-standing mayor-council power struggles in Fairhope and Daphne.
“I feel good about the decision. The state’s top court agrees with what I’ve been saying all along,” Fairhope Mayor Tim Kant said. “The mayor’s responsibilities are the mayor’s, under state law. They aren’t the council’s responsibilities.”
The city councils of Fairhope and Daphne passed ordinances in recent years removing their mayors’ power over personnel matters and giving it to themselves.
Both councils subsequently made key hirings, as Fairhope’s council chose a new police chief, and Daphne’s council selected a public works director.
Those hirings will stand, but the Supreme Court ruling, issued May 27, will force the cities to undo the ordinances, according to attorneys for the cities.
As of Friday, none of the parties in the case had asked for a rehearing, court officials said. Such requests must be filed within 18 days following a ruling.
Daphne Mayor Fred Small said he was “just glad that this is behind us now and we can all move on.”
Supreme Court ruling stems from 2009 case
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Fairfield Mayor Kenneth Coachman, who had sued 5 members of the City Council in June 2009 after they voted in favor of an ordinance that would have stripped him of appointing authority.
Council members argued that city code gave the authority to the council.
Jefferson County Circuit Judge Dan King ruled in 2009 that, according to state law, the authority rested with the mayor. King threatened to jail council members for contempt of court after they voted to eliminate two city positions.
The Supreme Court ruling upheld King’s decision.
The Alabama League of Municipalities sent a letter to the Supreme Court on Tuesday asking it to reconsider, but the league was not a party to the lawsuit.
“The decision certainly goes against the advice we have given for decades, that a council can take this authority for its own,” said Lori Lein, the league’s deputy general counsel.
Lein said the league had not surveyed municipalities on the subject, so it was unclear how many might be affected by the ruling.
“We are trying to get the word out,” she said.
The ruling is unlikely to have an impact on hiring in Mobile, where the candidates for employment are screened by the Mobile County Personnel Board and selected by the mayor’s administration.

No comments:

Post a Comment