A business tied to an outgoing Bay Minette city councilwoman filed a lawsuit against the wife of her replacement last week and the attorney representing her business in the case happens to be Mayor Bob Wills.When he’s not serving Bay Minette as mayor or as a member of the North Baldwin Utilities Board, Wills is a private attorney. However, those roles may soon overlap due to a defamation lawsuit Dobbins Builders LLC recently filed against Regions Bank and one of its local employees.
The suit alleges a mortgage originator with a Regions branch in Bay Minette “defamed” Dobbins Builders and “intentionally interfered” with business relationships and contracts between the home builder and prospective clients seeking home loans through Regions Bank.
According to state records, Dobbins Builders is owned by District 2 Councilwoman Kathy Dobbins, who took ownership of the business after a divorce from ex-husband William “Sonny” Dobbins Jr.
Sonny Dobbins, who served as Bay Minette’s mayor from 2000 to 2008, launched an unsuccessful campaign to reclaim the office this year and was ultimately defeated by Wills in an Aug. 23 municipal election.Kathy Dobbins did not campaign to keep her seat on the City Council, which on Nov. 7 she will hand over to incoming councilman Mike Phillips — whose wife, Jenny Phillips, is the mortgage originator listed as the second defendant in the lawsuit filed by Dobbins Builders last week.
In the complaint, Dobbins Builders is seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages and the cost of the proceedings. According to state court records, Wills formally submitted the complaint in that case on Sept. 8.
Despite the ties to the City Council, it appears Wills will be representing Dobbins and Dobbins Builders’ interests in the case going forward. Reached for comment, Wills said he could not discuss the lawsuit.
He also declined to discuss how or if he’s handled litigation involving city officials in the past — only saying his involvement with this particular issue began in 2015.
“My representation of my client in this began last September, almost a year ago,” Wills said.
Dobbins didn’t respond to a request for comment by this publication’s press deadline, and so far there has been no response to the lawsuit by Phillips or Regions. But Mike Phillips said he’d been advised by an attorney not to comment on the details of his wife’s lawsuit, but did say he is hopeful the timing “isn’t a vindictive move on the mayor’s part.”
“I just hope this isn’t directed towards me, because I’ve recently been inquiring about some documents and information on the [North Baldwin] utilities board,” Phillips added.
Lagniappe reached out to the Alabama League of Municipalities for guidance on how and if city officials should handle business relationships with their city colleagues. Though he was speaking in general terms, ALM Executive Director Ken Smith said a situation like the one in Bay Minette is “a dispute between individuals.”
“The fact that they are municipal officials is just a coincidence,” he added.