The question of who is Fairfield’s rightful mayor won’t be answered definitively any time soon, as Circuit Court Judge Pat Ballard ordered Ed May II, who was elected mayor, to add members of the City Council to his suit against the Jefferson County Personnel Board.
“The members of the City Council are necessary to this proceeding,” the judge said Friday morning. “Either you add them in within the next 30 days or I will dismiss this case without prejudice because of that lack of necessary parties.”
Attorney Emory Anthony, representing the Fairfield City Council, told the court that May no longer had standing in the case because he’s no longer the mayor. The council removed May, who was elected in 2016, from office earlier this month and replaced him with Council President Eddie Penny.
The council cited Alabama law in stating that May’s failure to attend City Council meetings over a span of 90 days ended his term. The council also has contended that, because Fairfield’s population has dipped below 12,000, under state law the mayor should vote with the council, a position to which May objects.
Anthony said that if the council is added to the case, he will file a motion to transfer the case to the Bessemer Division of the Jefferson County Circuit Court since Fairfield is in the that division. Ballard said he would almost certainly grant that motion.
May said his case is with the Jefferson County Personnel Board, which transferred his administrative authority.
“I said their actions were illegal, so I sued them,” he said. “That’s how we got before this court (in Birmingham).”
May said, “Instead of ruling on what was before the court, the judge decided to force me to add parties I did not think were necessary to this action.”
Fairfield Is a Cash-Strapped City
May said Friday’s order leaves the financially challenged city in western Jefferson County “in limbo.”
“The people of Fairfield, the world wants to know: Who’s the mayor of Fairfield?” May said. “With the judge forcing me to amend my complaint and then determining that he would transfer the case to (the Bessemer division), that’s just going to delay this whole decision even longer, which I don’t think is really necessary.”
A number of Fairfield citizens were in the chamber as arguments were made. Dr. Shirley Williams-Scott, granted permission to speak, asked Ballard whether the citizens of Fairfield could also be made parties in the case. He said no, noting that their voices are heard at the ballot box.
Residents present openly wondered how the cash-strapped city is paying city attorney Lucien Blankenship and Anthony. May posed the same question.
“I couldn’t afford any lawyers so I’m having to represent myself,” said May, who is an attorney. “These people have broken into my office, illegally sworn someone in and now I have to wait for the court to transfer my case to another court to decide an issue that’s valid before the court.
“In the meantime, I may not get paid, I won’t be able to do my job as mayor, etcetera, etcetera,” he continued. “I believe he’s (Ballard is) trying to get it out of his hands at this point.”