A video purporting to show Spanish Fort Mayor Mike McMillan slapping former city magistrate Lindsey Cooper on the face during an argument in October 2019 was posted online yesterday, giving the public its first glimpse of an incident resulting in McMillan’s arrest on a third degree harassment charge a few weeks later.
McMillan, who is campaigning for reelection Aug. 25 against three challengers, has not commented about the incident since last November, when he issued a statement reading, in part, “I look forward to having my day in court where all the evidence will come forth, and the truth will be borne out … I am satisfied that, after a full and fair hearing, the allegations against me will be disproved, and I will be exonerated.”
Still, months after filing the charge, Cooper was fired from her position this year, with the city claiming negligence, insubordination or dereliction of duty after she refused to check City Hall visitors for COVID-19 symptoms. But an attorney who represented Cooper in subsequent personnel hearings said Cooper’s boss, City Clerk Mary Lynn Williams, did nothing in response to Cooper’s initial HR complaint about the incident and when Cooper took it to the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) weeks later, Williams wrote a draft document for Cooper’s termination.
The video released yesterday — which does not include audio — appears to begin with Cooper seated at a workstation as another woman and later McMillan motion toward her computer. McMillan raises his right hand first toward the computer, but then appears to turn toward Cooper and make contact with her left cheek. Cooper appears to move her head slightly but remains seated, as McMillan returns toward the computer.
Attorney Ed Smith said the video released yesterday is authentic, but ‘a better version’ from a different angle also exists. While Cooper is being represented by the Baldwin County District Attorney’s Office in the harassment case, Smith said his representation of Cooper during the personnel hearing concluded Cooper was indeed slapped by McMillan and afterward, Cooper was retaliated against by Williams and others.
“We know a few things — you have the video now — but when [Cooper] complained to [Williams], virtually nothing was done about it for weeks,” Smith said. “That’s what caused [Cooper] to go to the BCSO to report the incident and the next day, the BCSO or DA sent an investigator to Spanish Fort to investigate and talk to a number of people. That same day or the day after that, [Williams] started a document recommending that Lindsey Cooper be fired. Then, at one of the hearings we had, [Williams] denied she ever had the idea to fire my client until [the COVID incident] in 2020, even though we had a copy of the draft document.”
Smith said Cooper refused to take the temperatures of visitors to City Hall because she had no adequate training or equipment to do so, plus her new workspace, where she was expected to continue her magistrate duties, did not provide the same level of privacy as her former workspace. Cooper’s firing was ultimately upheld in the personnel hearings by City Councilwoman Mary Brabner, and in June, the City Council voted unanimously to confirm Brabner’s decision.
Meanwhile, motions have been pending in McMillan’s harassment case since April, as Judge James Ried weighs a ruling on whether city attorney David Conner can be called to testify.
Conner, who allegedly interviewed witnesses and employees including Cooper and McMillan as part of his internal investigation, argued those conversations are protected by attorney-client privilege and cannot be admitted into evidence by the state. The state argues if that privilege ever existed, Conner waived it when he told Cooper he represented all parties in the internal investigation.
Today, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Doggett, the lead prosecutor, said the “the issue of attorney-client privilege between David Connor and the defendant, with respect to the criminal charges, remains outstanding and has to be resolved before the trial will commence. Obviously, the COVID outbreak has affected the timing of the case. It is our hope to resolve that issue in the next month so we can proceed to trial.”
McMillan nor his attorney Donald Briskman responded to requests for comment today, but mayor candidate Jeffrey Batley, who is in the race along with McMillan, Rebecca Cornlius and David Westerfield, said he watched the video this morning and “it speaks for itself.”
“In a courtroom, I would say something happened,” Batley said. “People don’t just fly back in their chairs when a hand comes swinging toward the upper part of their body. I looked authentic to me and regardless of what walk of life you’re in, or who you’re in business with, a man does not slap or hit a woman.”
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