Dawson resignation leaves Anniston council with choices -- again
by Laura Camper
lcamper@annistonstar.com
Apr 25, 2012 | 4117 views | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For the second time in five months, the members of the Anniston City Council will be replacing one of their own.

Councilman David Dawson resigned his seat as Ward 4 councilman, saying he could no longer adequately represent his constituents. Dawson resigned from his job at Anniston Pathology Management Services in January and has been seeking other employment. He was also named in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed in February.

A hearing on a motion to dismiss that lawsuit was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but Circuit Judge Brian Howell postponed it to give Dawson more time to find an attorney.

Dawson’s was the second resignation from the council in five months. Former councilman John Spain resigned in December.

The councilmen unanimously accepted Dawson’s resignation at their formal meeting on Tuesday.

Before the meeting, Mayor Gene Robinson said the council would probably follow the same procedure to replace Dawson they had followed before. To replace Spain, the members took applications for the position, interviewed the applicants and voted for candidates nominated by councilmen.

For this appointment, there is a deadline imposed in state law. The council has to make an appointment within three regular meetings. If there is not a majority vote, Robinson will cast an additional vote to break the tie. That was not necessary when the members appointed Jay Jenkins to replace Spain on Jan. 10.

At an informal session Tuesday, the mayor suggested the members follow the same procedure.

Councilman Herbert Palmore agreed.

“I guess the only thing you can do is do it as we did before, the process,” Palmore said.

Jenkins was on the other side of the process when he was appointed to replace Spain. He said it would feel uncomfortable being on the interviewing side of the table. Jenkins had some qualifications in mind, though -– a cooperative spirit, logic and an understanding of how the city operates.

Robinson said he was looking for someone with vision and someone who could think for themselves.

“I’m always looking for somebody that’s not a yes-man, a thinker,” Robinson said. “I want a barometer.”

Little said he wants to appoint someone who loves doing the will of the people.

“Hopefully someone will come forward that loves the ward, loves the city,” Little said.

The city will advertise for applications Thursday through Sunday and will accept applications through May 2. The applicants will be called in for an interview on May 7 beginning at 3 p.m. The council can then appoint the replacement at the May 8 meeting. The councilmen cancelled the May 22 meeting so the members could attend an Alabama League of Municipalities meeting.

With an election looming –- the councilmen’s terms end Oct. 1 – the new appointee will not serve long before facing re-election. However, the appointment might be an advantage to someone who was already planning to run for the office. Anniston Board of Education member Bill Robison and Anniston resident Joel Russell have both already announced their intentions to run for the Ward 4 seat.

Robison, a former councilman and mayor, said he will apply for the vacancy.

“I have a pretty good feel for things and I would be able to help early on,” Robison said.

If he is selected, Robison would have to resign from the school board as well as his seat on the Anniston Water Works and Sewer Board. Robison said though that he felt he was better suited to being a member of the council than the board of education.

Russell also plans to apply for the appointment. He said if appointed, his goal would be to bring the council together to work as a team.

Councilman Ben Little said he would prefer to find an applicant who didn’t intend to run for the office because of the potential advantage it would give the candidate.

“I think it will be a little hard at this late a date,” Little said. “I think it would be unfair one way or the other if one of the two get in now on an appointment basis.”

Robinson wasn’t concerned about adding a new member this late in the term. Dawson had skipped the last meeting and work session and continued absences may cause problems, Robinson said.

“It’ll just be good getting a councilman in to attend meetings and we need his vote,” Robinson said. “Theoretically, we could have had 2-to-2 ties.”

And after his three months as councilman, Jenkins advised the council hopefuls that if chosen, they should come to the council with a vision and be prepared.

“One of the things that I’ve noticed the most is that things don’t happen as rapidly in government as you might want to,” Jenkins said. “Don’t allow that to frustrate you.”

In other business, the council:

-- Voted down a proposal to give the Anniston City Schools $2,500 to educate the public about charter schools with a vote of 1-3, Little being the sole vote in favor.

-- Unanimously approved renewing a contract with L.P. Campbell Company for grant writing.

-- Failed to pass a proposal to permanently close a portion of Littlebrandt Drive with a tie vote, Little and Palmore voting no and Jenkins and Robinson voting yes.

-- Passed an ordinance establishing polling places for the newly established ward lines, including Anniston Country Club as a polling place. The law passed 3-1 with Little voting no.

-- Approved retail liquor licenses for three Dollar General Stores in Anniston.

Contact staff writer Laura Camper at 256-235-3545.

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