Mayor Ed May II has won the first round in his battle with the Fairfield City Council.
Jefferson County Circuit Judge Pat Ballard handed down a preliminary injunction in May’s favor Monday. The injunction prevents the council from stripping the mayor of most functions of his position, which had been reduced to a largely ceremonial job.
The injunction temporarily restores the original functions to May and sets aside the appointment of City Clerk Mary Roberson as city manager. That position is used by many Alabama cities for a person who handles most of the city’s day-to-day business, but Fairfield has not been legally approved to change its form of government to allow a city manager. Such a change would be subject to a referendum of city voters.
The injunction restores hiring and promotion authority to May, though any city employees hired or promoted by Roberson since the council’s move will stay in place until the court rules otherwise.
The injunction is the latest round in the battle between May, elected in 2016, and the council. In a previous interview with BirminghamWatch, May described the council’s move as “an illegal power grab.”
The battle stems from the city’s precarious financial position, which is the result of the closure of most operations at U.S. Steel’s Fairfield Works as well as the loss of several large retailers such as Walmart. The Walmart closure alone cut the city’s total tax revenues by at least a third.
As a result, Fairfield fell behind in many of its bills over the past two years. That led to the suspension of bus service from the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority.
In February, the council voted to strip May of most of his powers and appointed Roberson as city manager.
Ballard will hold a hearing June 25 to determine whether the injunction will become permanent.