A “good faith disagreement” between the Mobile City Council and Mayor Sandy Stimpson may require the attention of Alabama’s Attorney General, Stimpson believes. The disagreement is rooted in whether the council needs to approve two new “divisions” in Stimpson’s administration prior to considering the adoption of his revised budget tomorrow.

During discussions about the budget last week, City Council Attorney Jim Rossler suggested the council needs to approve the departments of Information Technology and Planning and Development in order to comply with the Zoghby Act.

Before Stimpson reorganized the departments and announced they would be led by executive-level appointed staff, they were departments of the city’s public safety and public works divisions, respectively.

In a letter to the council today, Stimpson argued that the departments are neither “new” nor “divisions” of the city’s government and they have been “duly existing and operating, without interruption, for decades.”

While Stimpson concedes that the council may approve divisions of departments, he said his appointment of Dianne Irby as Senior Director of Planning and Development “does not constitute the creation of an office, department or departmental division.” Therefore, the appointment doesn’t carry the same approval criteria as the heads of the three divisions — public safety, public works and finance — he argued.

“In sum, my appointment of Dianne Irby as Senior Director of Planning and Development, without Council approval, complied with the Zoghby Act, is within the parameters of the budget, and is otherwise valid in all respects. The position occupied by Ms. Irby is of the same nature and rank as the positions of Chief of Staff, Senior Advisor, Senior Director of Communications and External Affairs, and Senior Director of Community Affairs. Of course, these are Mayoral appointments over which the Council likewise has no approval authority,” he wrote.

Along with his interpretation of the Zoghby laws, “for the sake of good order,” Stimpson also provided a draft ordinance that would both ratify the creation of the departments and adopt his organizational chart. Alternately, “if Council members insist on involving themselves in the appointment of Ms. Irby or the creation of her position,” Stimpson provided two other proposed resolutions.

One would allow the council to individually approve the position and appointment held by Irby as well as every other member of his administration including the Chief of Staff, Senior Advisor, Senior Director of Communications and External Affairs and Senior Director of Community Affairs.

“If Council members believe they have authority to act in regard to Ms. Irby, then I assume they believe they have authority to act in regard to these other officers who occupy positions of the same nature and rank; and who were appointed under the same authority § 11-44C-40. Again, however, none of these actions are required; to the contrary, any action taken in regard to the appointment of officers in the administrative service would constitute a violation of the Zoghby Act.”

The mayor’s final proposal would be a resolution seeking the blanket approval of his entire executive staff, along with the opinion of the Attorney General.

“The Attorney General will render opinions to municipal authorities on questions of law relating to the performance of official acts,” Stimpson wrote.

City Council Vice President Fred Richardson said last week he would abstain from a vote on the mayor’s revised budget until the council had an opportunity to approve the appointments. Tomorrow’s agenda includes a resolution to amend the budget, but not an action on the appointments. Stimpson’s letter was addressed to Council President Gina Gregory, who did not return a call seeking comment.  

“The sooner a resolution is achieved, the sooner we can move on to the substantive business of serving the citizens of Mobile,” Stimpson concluded.