Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimson has filed a lawsuit against the Mobile City Council in retaliation for the attempted re-hiring of Council Spokeswoman Marion Steinfels, according to court documents obtained by NBC 15 News Thursday.
Mayor Stimpson is asking a judge for a restraining order to block the re-hiring.
"William S. Stimpson is the duly elected Mayor of the City of , Alabama. As Mayor he is vested with all executive powers of the City and is responsible for the proper administration of all affairs of the City," the lawsuit stated.
Council spokeswoman Marion Steinfels was fired by Stimpson in October. Council members have stated they believe the firing was politically motivated retaliation for changes they made to his city budget. The Mayor's Office refused to comment on the reason for the firing, citing personal reasons.
Yesterday we reported that Mobile City Council VP had signed a contract to re-hire Steinfels.
The suit alleges that the council is in violation of The Zoghby Act by interfering in "the Mayors exclusive statutory powers. The Act provides that "any councilman violating the provisions of this section, or voting for a resolution or ordinance in violation of this section, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall cease to be a councilman."
Late last week the Mayors office issued a statement to NBC 15 which seemed to be taking a softer stance on the dispute.
Laura Byrne at the Mayor's office offered the following statement regarding impeachment comments made by a member of the Stimpson Administration, City Attorney Ricardo Woods.
“Mr. Woods was informing the council that they could be in violation which would put them at risk for impeachment. The administration is not seeking the impeachment of the council.”-Laura Byrne, Deputy Director of Communications.
Mayor Stimpson is also asking for an immediate hearing to consider a Temporary Restraining order to stop what the motion calls "illegal expenditure of City funds."
The case was assigned to Judge Ben Brooks who, according to Mayor Sandy Stimpson, recused himself, and the case was reassigned to Judge Michael Youngpeter.
In a late Thursday emergency hearing, Judge Youngpeter declined to issue a Temporary Restraining order instead, issuing an order preserving the status quo.
By preserving the status quo, or Existing State of Affairs, Marion Steinfels is barred from beginning employment under the disputed contract.
Judge Youngpeter set a Dec 14th hearing date, according to Mayor Stimpson.
Mobile City Council Vice President Levon Manzie has issued a statement on Mayor Stimpson's lawsuit against the council's attempt to re-hire terminated spokesperson:
I’m surprised the Administration has chosen to spend taxpayer dollars to prevent us from simply having the additional support and capacity of one individual. The City Council is clearly within its rights. While I never thought this would actually go this far, I’m hopeful the Council will prevail.
The Mayor's Office released the following Thursday evening:
“Separation of powers and duties not duplication of powers, duties and responsibilities”
Mayor Sandy Stimpson today filed a civil action in Mobile County Circuit Court seeking to block the Mobile City Council from interfering in the administration of city government.
The action addresses the City Council’s continuous disregard for the separation of powers and duties between the Administration and the legislative body.
“As Mayor, it is my job to administer the executive branch and lead this City,” said Mayor Stimpson. “This action is necessary to stop what we believe is an illegal expenditure of city funds by the City Council. Separation of powers does not equal duplication of powers.”
Details of the civil action depict one of several recent incidents where the council has attempted to usurp the mayor’s authority under state law. The civil action lists the powers and duties of the Mayor as well as the powers and duties of the City Council which are defined in section 11-44C-1 of the Code of Alabama, commonly known as the “Zoghby Act.”
“I respect the duties and responsibilities of the City Council as the legislative branch of city government. And as stewards of the taxpayers dollars, we cannot allow the duplication of expenses,” Stimpson said.
Stimpson said the action represents the most expedient way to resolve the dispute.
“We’ve wasted enough time arguing over these questions of authority. It’s time for the courts to decide and allow us to move forward with the business of the city. We have too much momentum and too much opportunity ahead of us to allow this to slow us down.”