Councilman John Williams said he was “disappointed and disgusted” by the gamesmanship displayed from some of his his colleagues after the Mobile City Council failed to hold a planned meeting due to lack of a quorum Thursday afternoon.
Williams implied strongly on more than one occasion that Councilwoman Bess Rich and Councilman Fred Richardson intentionally decided to skip the meeting at the last minute to avoid a planned vote on the fiscal year 2020 budget.
“I wish I knew the truth,” Williams said. “It’s gamesmanship with the city of Mobile.”
Williams was present at the meeting along with Vice President Levon Manzie, Councilwoman Gina Gregory and Councilman Joel Daves. In addition to Rich and Richardson, Councilman C.J. Small also didn’t attend; however, Williams said he believed Small was sick.
“When we were elected we each said we’d do what was in the best interest of the city of Mobile,” Williams said. “Today, we didn’t do that.”
Neither Richardson, nor Rich immediately returned a call seeking comment on Thursday.
The meeting was originally announced Wednesday and was to take place at 2:30 p.m. Thursday to approve a new three-year contract with Carnival Cruise Line that will allow the company to use Mobile as a port of call for its Fantasy line.
Later in the day, a statement announcing the meeting was updated to include discussion and a possible vote on the city’s newest spending plan. The time of the meeting was also moved to 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
The time change created a conflict for Rich, she said. The District 6 councilwoman said she had a fundraiser she knew she couldn’t miss and told City Clerk Lisa Carroll-Lambert she was unavailable. Richardson did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
By state law, the Mobile City Council must have five of seven members to be able to vote on items or conduct business.
Approval of the city’s budget has been in limbo since the start of the new fiscal year Oct. 1, due to an ongoing legal issue stemming from a lawsuit Mayor Sandy Stimpson filed against the council over the power to hire, fire and contract with employees.
At Tuesday’s regular meeting the council voted by a split 4-3 decision to delay a vote on the budget until at least Oct. 30, following a scheduled hearing on Friday, Oct. 18 on a portion of that lawsuit in front of Mobile County Circuit Judge Micheal Youngpeter.
Stimpson confirmed following Thursday’s unofficial meeting that he had worked out a deal with Manzie to help push the budget forward. Details on the deal are scarce, but it involved finding the resources for a number of budget amendments councilors have endorsed.
On the Carnival contract, Stimpson said his office is excited about it and is just awaiting council approval for it. The current Carnival contract expires next month.
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