Following the dismissal of a lawsuit aimed at forcing the Mobile City Council to name Councilman Fred Richardson president, he is still looking at legal remedies.
While Chassity Ebbole’s lawsuit was thrown out by Mobile County Circuit Judge Robert Smith, who cited a lack of standing to bring the case, Richardson believes he does have standing.
“I don’t think the council is going to do anything,” he said. “The court moved that the plaintiff didn’t have standing, but I have standing.”
Richardson is currently weighing all of his options and is talking with attorneys about a possible class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of Richardson and the residents of Mobile.
“The lawsuit will be based upon the fact that the whole city is losing,” he said. “I’m looking at a suit that says the city has been damaged. The city is not whole.”
As evidence of his claim, Richardson points to the council being without standing committees for a significant portion of time.
“We didn’t have committees for a whole year,” Richardson said. “The law says the council should have committees.”
Until very recently, council Vice President Levon Manzie named ad-hoc, or one-time, committees to deal with issues that would arise. However, Manzie has since named standing committees in the absence of a president.
Ebbole, who represented herself in a court hearing, argued that the lack of committees hurt her tattoo business.
In addition, without a president, Richardson said there would be no one to run the day-to-day operations of the city if Mayor Sandy Stimpson was unable to do it. The law does provide for a special election in that case if there is more than a year left in a mayor’s term. However, Richardson argues someone would need to take over in the interim and he’s not sure a council vice president could do so legally.
Richardson also said the city looks weak in the eyes of peer cities because of the council’s inability or unwillingness to elect a president.
“It’s a citywide issue that ought to be resolved,” he said. “It’s bigger than Fred Richardson. It’s bigger than me.”
For his part, Manzie said he was hopeful the council could resolve the issue. In the meantime, he said he would continue to provide “steady leadership” for the council.
Councilman John Williams wants to resolve the presidency as well, but believes the issue could linger until the first of the year. Unlike Richardson, he doesn’t see a need for urgency.
“Nothing is waiting,” he said. “We’ve gone a year without one. It has not cost us to miss a single beat.”
The bigger issue for Williams is a need to balance the two factions on the council between the three members who voted for Councilwoman Gina Gregory and the four who picked Richardson. Williams said he would support Manzie for the job, but only if Gregory, Councilman Joel Daves or he became vice president.
Daves also said he was hopeful for a resolution, but admitted he doesn’t know what’s going to happen. Like Williams, Daves said he would support Manzie for president.
“He has done an excellent job,” he said.