Blast From the Past:
A penny for your thoughts
(Lightly edited, slightly paraphrased)
Grand Jury: Impeach city leaders
Jury trial set for removal of members
of City Council and the mayor
By BJ Scamper
A Mobile County grand jury has called for the dismissal of the mayor of a leading Mobile County municipality, city council members and other officials, on charges of willful neglect of duty and incompetence.
A jury trial on the removal of all officials has been scheduled, and District Attorney John M. Tyson Jr. said his investigation into city operations is continuing.
"We believe, under the circumstances, (the city’s residents) have become victims of their own government," Tyson said Friday. "We're moving as fast as we can to help them."
The grand jury report is the latest in a series of bad headlines for the large Mobile County city. Tarnished by crime, political infighting and low revenue, the city has among its less attractive prospects, the possibility of bankruptcy.
Grand jury recommendations on cleaning the city’s slate did not charge anyone with crimes. But the panel accused the mayor and council leaders of failing to act with even minimal, government quality executive competence.
What would happen if the officials were removed from office remained uncertain Friday. If impeachment is successful, Tyson said that he would petition the court to appoint one or more persons to temporarily run the city's operations.
The report alleges that the mayor ignored repeated notices that the city’s monthly operating expenses were exceeding available funds. At the same time, it said that the city continued to strap on more debt.
The mayor, in essence, failed to tighten his financial belt, the grand jury concluded. And it heaps a large share of the blame on the mayor for the city's debacle.
The mayor and the council failed to allocate enough money to the employee pension fund, which is underfunded by millions of dollars, according to the grand jury report. The city now carries debt of many more millions of dollars, the report said.
"The mayor has been trying for a number of years to solve the financial problems of the city, and he has had absolutely zero cooperation from the City Council," said RDH, the mayor’s lawyer. "We're looking forward to our day in court."
RW, the attorney for the council, declined comment.
"I don't know what happens now," one official said. "I ain't going to step down, I do know that. I'm going to see what's going on. If I’m going, I ain’t going easy. They better bring a lunch and some dynamite because I'm digging in. I don't admit to nothing."
The report accused officials of failing to follow prudent business practices.
RDH, the mayor's attorney, said: "The city is a very sad situation. It has lots and lots of expenses, and they just keep coming, month after month after month, without a break. It wouldn't be so bad but for the low income.
It's a very difficult situation. They need more revenue to catch up to the expenses. Things have just tended to go the other way. It's funny -- not ha-ha funny, but weird funny -- that expenses are plentiful and revenue is scarce. Always. Never the other way around. They hoped and expected that it would eventually flip flop. We really wish it were the other way around. But that's the way it was when the mayor started, and until some remarkable events occur, it will remain that way.
I'd say it's more a shame than a crime."
(The story above, only lightly edited and slightly paraphrased, appeared in the Press Register a little more than 10 years ago in the wake of Mobile District Attorney John Tyson Jr.'s investigation into municipal government in Prichard that led to the impeachment and ouster of Mayor Jessie Norwood and other city officials there.)