Legal wrangling grabs spotlight at Snead

Recessing into executive session still again, the Snead Town Council evidently continued discussion of potential litigation. Each meeting seems to increase possible lawsuits the city faces. In the earlier session on July 8, town attorney Brett King had advised the council to postpone consideration of a potentially litigious overtime pay matter for its executive session. From public discussion, that session had evidently been originally planned to consider a lawsuit involving a disputed subdivision.

Monday evening, King again suggested an additional topic for that evening’s scheduled executive session, as resident John Seaton raised the possibility of still another legal case. Seaton, who claimed he had spent 113 days awaiting council action on a nuisance property complaint, asserted he had consulted an attorney. According to Seaton, the attorney informed him he would need to name the town as well as specific individuals in any legal attempt to get the property across from his home cleaned.

Tammy Price, another resident, questioned why the matter should go into executive session, when it had already been broached during the open session. King asserted that no council has to go into any executive session. He noted, however, that state law permits executive sessions for various reasons, one of which is potential litigation. He identified the executive session as his opportunity to provide confidential legal advice to his client (the town).

Following the executive session, councilman Dale Snead moved that the town instruct police officer Joseph Blackwood to deliver a notice of potential action to the identified owner of the nuisance property. The motion won unanimous approval, including the support of Mayor Curtis Painter, who departed from his standard practice of not voting on motions.

In Seaton’s prior remarks, he first apologized to Painter and town clerk Rae Ware for his words and conduct three days earlier at the mayor’s office. Seaton held he had not displayed a “Christian attitude” in that visit. He explained he would seek legal action should the town not increase its efforts to get the nuisance property corrected.

According to Seaton, resident Herman Mulvehill attempted his own solution to the problem by paying back taxes on the identified property. Seaton alleges Mulvehill thought he would be able to clean the property as a claimant owner. He further asserted that the town had told Mulvehill not to start the cleaning.

Seaton presented photos to the council which he alleged show that the presumed actual owner, David Denham, has moved a dumpster onto the property and, according to Seaton, is putting trash from another building he owns in town in the dumpster.

In response to Seaton’s proposed legal action, King had advised the council that (Seaton’s lawsuit) might be the town’s best option. He noted he had concluded the town would likely never recover the legal and potential cleanup costs it would incur in its own pursuit. He referred to an example from a prior condemnation action.

Responding to a question from councilor Greg Ogles, Ware explained that attempts to deliver certified letters to Denham had failed. That prepared the stage for Snead’s motion to move into executive session and his later proposed action. Officer Blackwood attended part of the executive session, and Ware was asked in for part, as well.

Other action

In department reports, utilities director Jeff Whited explained work was scheduled to begin that evening on the Graveman Road water booster station. The contractor plans work from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. until completion.

Whited won approval to purchase a computer to email required reports to ADEM (Alabama Department of Environmental Management). In a final matter, he recommended that the town stay with the current provider for radio-controlled telemetry, rather than follow the town engineer’s suggestion of another company.

Blackwood won approval for police Chief Phillip Weaver’s attendance at a week-long FBI training in Florence. He explained that the $350 registration fee included at least three meals and materials. Weaver had informed Blackwood he would commute rather than incur hotel expenses.

The council tabled Blackwood’s request for a $1-anhour raise for Officer Casey Hathcock. Hathcock completed his year-long probationary period July 17. Ogles questioned whether the raise would result in Hathcock’s making more than an employee with longer service. When Snead responded that it would, the council decided to delay authorization for further study and until Weaver could attend.

The council agreed to Blackwood’s recommendation authorizing Motorola to repair a mobile radio at a cost of $498. The department had received a lower bid, but that repairer only offered a 30-day warranty.

After Snead questioned why Judge Dalton NeSmith’s requested $225 required training reimbursement was on the agenda, he moved for the reimbursement. Snead had received no answer to his inquiry as to why the item was not part of the regular bill payment, authorized earlier.

Councilman Phillip McHan missed the July 22 meeting. Councilors Jack Freeman and Charles Sanders joined Painter, Ogles, and Snead for the session. The council regularly meets the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 7 p.m. in the community center.