Daphne’s former interim finance director and treasurer is challenging his termination June 12, according to a letter sent to city officials from his attorney on Friday. The letter, addressed to Mayor Dane Haygood and Human Resources Director Vickie Hinman, asks for Michael V. Hinson to be reinstated immediately.
Attorney Smith Prestwood wrote that Hinson was dismissed by Haygood for “insubordination” after a disagreement over a software upgrade.
Haygood said Monday he couldn’t discuss a personnel matter with the media, but added that the letter is “factually incorrect.”
The letter states Hinson has retained Spear, Spear and Hamby to represent him “regarding his wrongful termination as treasurer and finance director for the City of Daphne.”
In the fall of 2013, Hinson discovered that the city was using out-of-date software and in January of this year, he presented a software-upgrade proposal to Haygood, but the mayor responded that there wasn’t enough money in the budget for it, according to the letter.
In May, Hinson discovered the software would be losing support services next year and revisited the issue. Hinson discovered a budget surplus that could be used to pay for the upgrades and emailed the proposal to Haygood and Councilwoman Tommie Conaway, the chairwoman of the Finance Committee.
The letter says Haygood became “infuriated” with Hinson for the “disclosure of the budget surplus” to Conaway.
“Mayor Haygood retaliated against Mr. Hinson by berating him and subsequently terminating him one week later, on June 12, 2014, without notice and without a hearing,” the letter reads.
In the letter, Prestwood writes that Hinson’s termination was unlawful because in his capacity as treasurer, he reports to the City Council.
“Mr. Hinson was acting under a statutory duty when (he) reported the budget surplus and the proposed software upgrade to Ms. Conaway,” Prestwood wrote.
He argued, “any officer of the city can only be removed by the officer making the appointment,” which in this case was the City Council. Prestwood wrote any termination for this position requires a hearing and a vote of the City Council.
Prestwood wrote in the letter council consent is also required for termination of Hinson as finance director, but City Attorney Jay Ross said he sees it differently.
“The mayor released the employee during his interim probationary period,” Ross said. “The mayor acted appropriately.”
Ross added they are “working through” issues outlined in the letter.
“He’s retained an attorney, which is his prerogative,” he said.
Ross said typically an employee’s probationary period lasts six months, but the mayor can extend it, which is what happened in this case. He said Hinson had worked for the city for “eight or nine months.”
The letter states that even if Haygood had the statutory right to terminate Hinson, his actions still violate the law because “he lacked good cause to do so.”
Prestwood declined to comment on the letter at this time.
Hinson is seeking full reinstatement of his duties and asked for a hearing before the council.
A job posting on the Daphne city website is currently advertising for a new finance director. The position closes June 30, according to the posting. The salary range is advertised at $52,380 to $68,727.
The job requires a bachelor’s degree in accounting, or business administration with master’s level course work in the field. The job also requires 10 to 15 years experience in financial management. The applicant must also be a licensed Certified Public Accountant.
The city had more than $29 million in expenditures in fiscal year 2013, according to the financial report. Public safety spending made up 30 percent of the budget, while capital outlay accounted for 21 percent and debt service accounted for 16 percent.
Increases in capital outlay expenses, at $1 million and debt service at $500,000 were the main reasons for a 6.7 percent increase in expenditures for the city.
Letter to Daphne Mayor Dane Haygood