The long-running feud between Fairfield Mayor Ed May II and the City Council has reached a boiling point, as the council voted to remove May from office because he was continually absent from council meetings.
Claiming that state law required May’s ouster because he had missed meetings for more than 90 days, the council voted to remove May in January. During a special meeting Tuesday, Council President Eddie Penny was sworn in as May’s replacement.
It’s the latest battle in a war between May and the council that has lasted since shortly after May was elected to replace Kenneth Coachman in 2016. The battle began last year when the council voted to hire then-City Clerk Mary Roberson as a city manager — a position Fairfield has never filled before. The council then stripped May of many of his duties as mayor, including hiring and firing personnel, and gave those duties to Roberson.
May’s veto of that action was ignored by the council; he then filed suit against the council, contending that he was not given a chance to vote on the ordinance and was not present when the council voted to appoint Roberson. Circuit Judge Pat Ballard agreed and voided the ordinances, but the council then passed both ordinances again with May being allowed to vote.
May has since filed another suit in Ballard’s court, this time against the council for its vote to remove him. A hearing was held Feb. 7, the same day the Jefferson County Commission agreed to take over maintenance on three main roads in Fairfield. However, the hearing was continued until Feb. 22.
An online search by BirminghamWatch on Wednesday of state laws pertaining to mayors and city councils did not yield any statutes that definitively allow mayors to be removed for not attending council meetings for a set period of time. Another state law does allow councils to remove one of their own members if they fail to attend for 90 consecutive days; this law was the basis of removing Fultondale council member Greg Morris from office in 2011. Morris was absent because his driver’s license was suspended after an arrest for DUI in late 2010, and he had no other means of getting to the meetings. Morris was elected to take his old seat back from his replacement in the following city election; he subsequently was arrested again for DUI in Shelby County in 2015.
Fairfield still operates under a form of government in which the mayor and council are separate, which is called for by state law for cities with a population of more than 12,000. But in the 2010 United States Census, Fairfield’s population dipped to 11,117. Cities in Alabama with populations between 6,000 and 11,999 normally have a mayor who also votes with the city council and serves as the council head, but Fairfield did not revert to that form of government after the census.
Attempts by BirminghamWatch to reach May and Penny on Wednesday were unsuccessful. However, May posted a lengthy message on his Facebook page, accusing the council of putting his personal property in boxes.
“Eddie Penny wanted to be Mayor so bad they had someone go into my office and box all my stuff up then called the police when I went into my office. Then tonight (2-12-19) at a hardly noticed special call [sic] meeting at 5 or 5:30pm and swore in Eddie Penny supposedly as Mayor. Even though I’m in court about this very mess right now with a hearing on Friday February 22nd about this mess they keep unlawfully doing. And the Judge said he will decide if I could be removed that way (which I can’t),” May’s Facebook post read in part.
“I’ve been trying to stay quiet about this for some time in an effort not to bring further embarrassment to the City of Fairfield. I had hope to avoid senseless public arguments with the hope of simply moving the City Forward with the resources available to me in absence of funding and cooperation from the City Council. However I can no longer remain quiet in the face of such lawlessness and corruption has is [sic] being displayed by the Fairfield City Council. These people have for a whole year, literally an actual year, have conspired with the City Attorney, officials at the County Personnel Board and numerous others including City and non City personnel to remove me from my position as mayor or otherwise strip my authority just so they could exercise it, (even though they have not one plan to move the city forward only to bring it further down),” the post continued.
Sam Prickett contributed to this report.