Whether it’s a difference of interpretation of land use regulations or a matter of the mayor of Daphne going beyond the scope of his authority, a city official’s conflict with Mayor Dane Haygood has raised questions that may involve ethics or politics or both.
Regardless, the Daphne Police Department is considering making a report to the Alabama Ethics Commission. “What we are investigating is whether or not we have to do that,” said Capt. Jud Beedy, spokesman for the Police Department.
Some council members now question two planning and zoning issues, one involving the mayor and his own piece of property.
The conflict went public on Oct. 17, when Community Development Director Adrienne Jones asked to address the City Council.
“It is my opinion that this discussion whether public or in executive session will have negative impact on relationship between the city executive and me; however I think the council should be aprised [sic] of certain matters tonight,” she wrote in a note to the council asking to be allowed to speak.
After City Attorney Jay Ross ruled the discussion should be held in public under the provisions of Alabama’s open meetings law, a tearful Jones accused Haygood of overstepping his authority over the planning staff, the city Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Adjustment. “There are certain things that the mayor and I disagree on,” Jones said that night.
Although there are several instances of disagreement, the two examples drawing the most attention are Haygood’s handling of the construction of a private access road on property he has an interest in that is part of the Renaissance development fronting Highway 90 in Daphne near Highway 181. A building that will house a Smoothie King is under construction on one lot, but an access road on a second lot did not have city site plan approval from the Planning Commission.
Baldwin County Probate Court records list Haygood as the managing partner for the property owners. Haygood said he relied on legal advice that the access road did not need official site plan approval and that the road construction has since stopped at Jones’ request.
The second issue concerns Haygood issuing at least one “temporary business license” in a commercial business park on Pollard Road. Two businesses have been mentioned as getting approval from Haygood — a dance studio and martial arts facility — but only one license has been issued since the second business is reportedly not ready to open.
Jones told the council the zoning for the business park is commercial/industrial and is not zoned for the businesses Haygood allowed. Haygood told Lagniappe similar businesses had already been allowed into the park.
Jones said she was embarrassed to bring the matters to the council. “I want to do the right thing and I have no ulterior motives,” she said. “But we cannot continue to operate this way.”
Haygood said he was happy to have a discussion in public, but has since told Lagniappe that Jones should not have “run to the council or the public.” Jones declined to discuss the issues with Lagniappe.
Councilman John Lake, whom Haygood defeated in the recent election for mayor, praised Jones for being brave enough to take on the mayor in public. “He figures since he’s the mayor he has the authority to do whatever he wants.”
Lake denies that his criticism is a case of political sour grapes. “I would never have brought it up if I hadn’t seen what I saw at the public meeting.”
Council President Pat Rudicell said the council had no inkling of what was coming the night Jones went before them. “We didn’t know what was going on before it happened,” he said.
Rudicell said he’s not trying to make an accusation, but the issue is what Haygood can and can’t do as mayor of Daphne, particularly in regard to planning and zoning.
“There’s no such thing as a temporary business license in the city of Daphne,” Rudicell said.
Haygood said the city exposed itself to legal liability by not issuing a business license when a similar business had been approved previously. He said he disagrees with Jones about the need for a site plan to build the access road on his property but will abide by whatever the legal department advises. And the Police Department is obligated to report any potential wrongdoing to the Ethics Commission, he said.
“The fact that we want to point the finger because the mayor was forced to understand the issues at hand, engage legal, made a decision based on the circumstances — and we want to try to call attention to it for political purposes, is problematic,” Haygood said.
“We’re not going to spend our days trying to make the right decisions for the city and having every decision played out in the public eye. It’s just the wrong way to try to conduct business for the city of Daphne.”