On Monday, lawyers for council members Jeff Clendenning and Sheila Field filed motions in response to a lawsuit Mayor Garry Bearden filed earlier this month. In that suit, the mayor alleges the council members serve in more than one “office of profit,” which is illegal.
In order for a government job to be considered an office of profit, according to the Alabama League of Municipalities, a post must exercise power granted by the Legislature, have a fixed term and provide compensation for its holder.
Motions filed by attorneys representing Clendenning, a Calhoun County bridge inspector, and Field, an assistant district attorney for Calhoun County, stated that the council members’ day jobs do not violate the rule on offices of profit, and that the case should not move forward because it is not in the best interest of the people.
The council members’ motions also stated that Bearden’s legal actions are an attempt to retaliate in response to a dispute about his legal place of residence.
Residents have complained that Bearden lives at a home he owns just across the city limit line in Anniston. Bearden maintains that his domicile is at another home he owns in Weaver.
Earlier this month Councilman Michael Warren, acting on behalf of the city, filed a motion asking for a judge to make a ruling on Bearden’s address. If a judge finds he lives at an Anniston address, he can be ordered out of office, according to state law.
“This case is nothing more than a petulant attempt by the Plaintiff to divert attention from his own legal difficulty stemming from a challenge by the Weaver City Council regarding his continued ability to serve as the City’s Mayor due to his failure to maintain his residence within the city limits,” Field’s motion states. “Not only will this case confer no public benefit, it will actually harm the public interest by impeding the progress and activity of the members of the Weaver City Council.”
Bearden says that he has several homes and that he spends time at the Anniston home, but that his Weaver home is his legal residence. Last week Bearden responded to the city’s suit with a motion to dismiss the case. The motion stated, among other things, that the city’s suit is an attempt to contest the 2008 election and that it failed to provide sufficient evidence to support claims that Bearden is an Anniston resident.
On Friday, an attorney for Warren filed a motion of opposition in response to that motion.
It stated that the challenge to Bearden’s residency is not an attempt to contest the 2008 election but to determine where he lives now because Alabama law states that an elected municipal officials must live in the city they govern. It also provided about a dozen copies of documents listing Bearden’s Anniston home as his address.
Among those examples were copies of the campaign finance reports Bearden filed for his ongoing bid for state House District 35 seat and documentation indicating that Bearden filed for his property tax homestead exemption at 6511 Weaver Road in Anniston in 2007.
Contact staff writer Laura Johnson at 255-235-3544.