Judge Rules Penny Is Mayor of Fairfield, but the Fight Is Not Over Yet

Ed May II (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Circuit Judge Eugene Verin ruled that Eddie Penny is the legal mayor of Fairfield, but citizens who stand behind elected mayor Ed May II have not yet given up.

“The Citizen Coalition has decided to do a writ of mandamus, to take it immediately up to the (Alabama) Supreme Court,” May said Tuesday on the steps of the Jefferson County Courthouse in downtown Birmingham. “That should be filed hopefully by the end of the week.”

Verin’s ruling came Friday. May, himself a lawyer, said the judge’s ruling was “clearly erroneous.”

“Based on the hearings that took place, it was evident to everybody present, particularly the Citizens Coalition and myself,” May said. “It was clear that Emory Anthony’s clout with the judge was controlling in the courtroom.”

Anthony represented Penny in the case in Bessemer Circuit Court. May said attorneys for the Citizens Coalition earlier filed a motion to recuse Verin because he received an endorsement from the Jefferson County Progressive Democratic Council, of which Anthony has been president.

In a related matter, May and Penny are still squaring off against one another before Circuit Court Judge Pat Ballard in Birmingham. The administrative authority of the mayor is the issue in that case as the council stripped that authority from May before removing him from office.

May found the twist ironic.

“If Penny is in office, he has no administrative authority,” he said. “The city manager has it right now. That’s what I was suing about. Even right now, he has no authority.”

May said that Verin’s ruling included stipulations that the Fairfield City Council fill the seat of council president that Penny held before being named mayor. The now former mayor said that is odd since part of the argument against him was that, under state law, the mayor should also be president of the city council because the distressed city’s population has fallen below 12,000.