Birmingham City Councilor Marcus Lundy announced Tuesday he will not be seeking re-election, leading to an outpouring of verbal — and at times emotional — support from his fellow councilors, with some indicating they believe he was forced out.
A majority of the council members, speaking on the record and anonymously after the meeting, allege that Lundy was pressured to not seek re-election by Mayor William Bell or else potentially lose his job at Regions Bank.
“The book of Ecclesiastes says there is a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to live and a time to die. For all things there is a season, and my time as a city councilor has come to an end,” Lundy said. “I will not be seeking re-election for Birmingham City Council. This information will satisfy a lot of folks. They’re probably doing cartwheels right now.”
Lundy did not say which “folks” he was referring to, but the announcement sent shockwaves through the nearly empty council chambers.
Following Lundy’s remarks, several councilors alluded to the altercation between Lundy and Bell that occurred during a council meeting Dec. 15, 2015. In that widely publicized event, there was shouting in the room behind the council chamber and a brief scuffle that sent both men to the hospital with minor injuries. A warrant initially was issued for Lundy but later withdrawn at Bell’s request.
The incident made national headlines and left a bruise on the relationship between Bell and the council, one that was made visible by the public comments councilors made Tuesday after most of the media and citizens had left the meeting.
“This is not something you should be doing for 40 years,” Lundy said. Bell has worked in City Hall for almost that length of time. “Ideas get old and stale, just as you do. And you should come in here, add value and then get the hell out of the way … . I thank God for my time here, but y’all won’t have Lundy to beat around no more.”
According a member of the council, who spoke after the meeting and asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution, Lundy was told by the mayor that if he sought re-election, he would lose his job at Regions Bank.
Several other councilors, according to the source, have been subjected to similar threats by the mayor’s office. During the public meeting some council members spoke out about the situation, but stopped short of accusing Bell of pressuring Lundy to not seek re-election.
They did, however, strongly suggest that Lundy was the victim of an injustice that needs balancing out.
“It’s unfortunate you have to make a decision like this,” Councilor Steven Hoyt said, addressing Lundy during the meeting. “But the God that we serve is the God of reciprocity. What goes around comes around. So do know that. I’m telling you the day of reckoning will come when things will be dealt with like they should … . I understand at the end of the day, it’s about family and it’s about business. But we wish you the very best.”
Councilor Sheila Tyson said that nobody should have to decide between public service and keeping a job.
“It’s not right … . I know you aren’t going to agree on everything, but you shouldn’t have to choose between your job and serving the public,” she said. “I think people take this as a game. They do things out of spite. To be playing with someone’s job is so wrong. I promise you, what goes around comes around.”
In the current climate at city hall, serving as a council member is “not an illustrious position,” Councilor Jay Roberson said from the dais. “You got a wife and kids. You have got to do what’s best for your family. I commend you for coming out and being open, honest and abrupt about your decision. It takes a real man to do that under these circumstances.”
Lashunda Scales says she has been subject to instances of “bullying” at City Hall during her tenure as councilor.
Having been out of the chamber during the announcement, Councilor Lashunda Scales was visibly upset, wiping tears away, when she realized what was happening. She entered the room after the other councilors had commented on the situation.
“It should be on your own will and not because you were forced to have to choose … . I’m heartbroken, because if the public only knew the bullying that goes on in this place … . I’m so sick of it,” a teary-eyed Scales said. “I’m going to tell them, but I’m going to do it at the right time. This is the only job that, physically — that I came to work and had to question if my safety would be at risk. This is crazy. You’re talking about folks’ family!”
Scales, who said she was “fed up,” characterized City Hall as the place “where dreams come to die.” Without divulging details, Scales said she will open up about an incident that happened to her in 2013 “when the time is right.” She followed by saying similar situations of “bullying” have happened to other councilors as well.
“You have a councilor being dismissed from a job they held for almost 30 years,” Scales said. “You got another council member whose job is in question because if you don’t make certain political decisions … . That’s not the democratic way of doing things.”
She said she is praying the CIA or FBI — “Forget the local district attorney; he’s probably hamstrung too on some level,” she said — would investigate allegations of corruption in the mayor’s office. “Mr. Lundy, I’m not going to take this lying down. This is why good people don’t run for office. The crooks will run for it,” Scales said. “I hope this place gets exposed for everything it is … . I promise you, this year I’m going to tell everything I know. I’m hurting for you, Mr. Lundy … . I’m hurt. And I’ll tell you, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
When asked via email if there was any validity to these allegations, April Odom, communications director for Bell, responded with an emoticon-ended comment that did not address the issue. “I know that you are doing your job. ;)” she wrote. When asked whether or not an additional response would be given, Odom wrote, “No.”
A representative for Regions Bank said “they have no comment at this time” regarding the allegations. After the meeting, Lundy could not be reached for further comment.
BirminghamWatch and Weld: Birmingham’s Newspaper collaborated to cover the Birmingham City Council and the Jefferson County Commission.