Rainsville City Council Meeting…Concerns Over Who Has What Authority

In Monday night’s council workshop, Mayor Rodger Lingerfelt informed the city council that going forward only items on the agenda will be brought up in council meetings. Also, he informed them that all new employees hired will go through the Mayor, “I will be interviewing all the people that we hire going forward”.

Councilmember Derek Rosson expressed concern. “If we want to hire somebody you’re against, we can’t hire them?” Mayor Lingerfelt stated one of the reasons for the change, “we had two people hired a while back that were not on the agenda, I never seen them, so we are going to clean it up going forward.”

To add to this confusion, for years and years, mayor’s have placed councilmembers as liaison’s over departments, in smaller cities like Rainsville, to help the mayor with day to day activities. This, in turn, has led many councilmembers to believe they are the department head, or boss over those departments, which is incorrect and a violation of State law.

To clear things up, let’s take a look at the roles of both councilmembers and the mayor. Each councilmember sits on the governing body of the municipality and has one vote in legally, official convened meetings. The council can only act as a body at a legally convened meeting. The council has authority over the property and finances of the municipality. The council establishes policies, passes ordinances, sets tax levels, determines what sorts of services the municipality will offer and has authority over all other legislative aspects of municipal government.  Section 11-43-56, Code of Alabama 1975. An individual councilmember, acting alone, has no greater authority or power, than any of citizen of that municipality. i.e. a councilmember only has power in a legally, official convened meeting and no power outside of those meetings. An individual councilmember has no power over any of the city employees. No official action may be taken by any individual councilmember. All official action must be taken by the council acting as the governing body, in a legal official meeting.

According to the Code of Alabama, the mayor is the CEO of that municipality, serving in many ways just like a CEO of a private corporation. The mayor is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the municipality. The mayor oversees municipal employees (again councilmembers do not have this authority under State law), assures that bills are paid on time, and executes municipal contracts. Section 11-43-81, Code of Alabama 1975.

Attorney General Opinion to Hon.  A.J. Cooper, August 15, 1973., “the Attorney General has ruled that individual councilmembers cannot direct the activities of a municipal fire department, even pursuant to a properly enacted ordinance. AGO 1988-262.” Other similar rulings include: “Individual city councilmembers may not supervise and control municipal departments.” The city council must approve expenditures of municipal funds.  AGO 1991-147

All elected officials are given these Laws when they start each term and all elected officials should know these Laws.

Anyone that would like to do additional research on this topic, this website has the Code of Alabama: http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/alison/CodeOfAlabama/1975/Coatoc.htm

Business conducted in the meeting:

  • The Mayor proposed bidding out the purchase of a 2020 Front Loader Garbage Truck to replace an older 2006 model that is frequently breaking down. A motion and second were made, with Brandon Freeman, Marshall Stiefel, and Rodger Lingerfelt voting YES, and Bejan Taheri, Ricky Byrum, and Derek Rosson voting NO. Motion failed to pass.
  • Approved to send the City Court Clerk and City Clerk to conference
  • Approved for the City Clerk to open 2 accounts at First Southern State Bank for the Alabama Gas/Diesel Tax funds
  • Approved $38,958.00 for the purchase of 10 roll off dumpsters
  • Approved to replace a motor/digestor at the Waste Water Treatment Plant at a cost of $4,880.00 from Albertville Electric Motor Service
  • Approved to spend between $10,000 – $11,000 for Jimmy Traylor Construction to remodel the drive-thru/city hall.
  • Approved to install a street light at the intersection of Parker and Vaughn
  • Approved to accept the resignation of Pete Long from the Zoning Board of Adjustments, due to health reasons
  • Approved a Proclamation Declaring September 30, 2019 Family Day.
  • Approved to spend $1,054.99 to build a website for the Rainsville Freedom Festival to Anything Creative
  • Approved to Reinstate Funds to Chamber of Commerce for Asst. Director

Next regular meeting scheduled for October 7, 2019