At a hearing Friday morning, Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Michael Youngpeter officially dismissed Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s lawsuit against the City Council, in light of a settlement having been reached.
Youngpeter ruled despite Councilman Fred Richardson and Councilwoman Bess Rich asking him to allow them to continue the suit. Richardson, who was present for the hearing, told Youngpeter there were several issues in the council’s counterclaim that the joint stipulation of dismissal does not address, like Stimpson’s “pocket veto” of the amendments made to the 2019 budget. Rich sent a letter to Youngpeter saying she disagreed with the settlement and asking to remain in the suit.
Richardson argued that because Stimpson simply did not enact amendments councilors made to the budget, including a 5-percent raise for public service workers, he and Rich should be allowed to continue fighting.
“I stand to say I do not agree with the dismissal of all claims and counterclaims,” Richardson said.
Youngpeter told Richardson that the council was sued in its official capacity and not as individuals, meaning the supermajority vote of the council on Thursday to settle the suit locked the agreement in.
The settlement gives council public affairs representative Marion Steinfels her job back officially and allows her the opportunity to apply for a merit position. Steinfels was fired by Stimpson more than a year ago in what many on the council believed was a politically-motivated move.
Steinfels, who has been working without pay since the lawsuit was filed, will receive back pay based on her $65,000-per-year salary. Youngpeter asked Steve Nicholas, an attorney for Stimpson, to ensure Steinfels gets her back pay within a month.
“I’d love for her to get paid back as soon as possible,” Youngpeter said. “She’s been a pawn in this lawsuit, basically.”
In addition to reinstating Steinfels, the settlement will also require Stimpson to provide to councilors the appointment letters to everyone he has hired outside of the Mobile County Personnel Board.
The city has spent more than $140,000 in legal fees since the lawsuit was filed in December 2018.
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