State ex rel. Shirley Williams-Scott
from Jefferson Circuit Court, Bessemer Division
Parker, C.J., and Bolin, Wise, and Stewart, JJ., concur.
State of Alabama, on the relation of Shirley Williams-Scott,
appeals from an order entered by the Jefferson Circuit Court
denying Williams-Scott's petition for a writ of quo
warranto seeking to declare that Eddie Penny does not hold
office as the mayor of the City of Fairfield. We affirm.
to Act No. 1991-699 ("the local act"), Fairfield,
which before the 2010 federal census had a population of over
12, 000, has operated under a mayor-council form of
government; the mayor and council president are elected at
large, and 6 council members are elected from single-member
districts. It appears undisputed that, before the most recent
federal census in 2010, the population of Fairfield was more
than 12, 000. Section 11-43-2(a), Ala. Code 1975, provides:
"[I]n all cities and towns at the general election to be
held on the fourth Tuesday in August, 1984, and quadrennially
thereafter, there shall be elected a mayor, who, in cities
having a population of 12, 000 or more according to the last
or any subsequent federal census, shall not sit with the
council nor have a vote in its proceedings, and he or
she shall have the power and duties conferred in this
2010 federal census indicated that the population of
Fairfield had dropped below 12, 000. Section 11-43-2(b), Ala.
Code 1975, provides:
"In all cities and towns having a population of
less than 12, 000 inhabitants according to the last
or any subsequent federal census, the legislative functions
shall be exercised by the mayor and five aldermen. The
mayor shall preside over all deliberations of the council. At
his or her discretion he or she may vote as a member of the
council on any question coming to a vote, except in case of a
tie, in which event he or she must vote."
(Emphasis added.) Another statutory provision states that,
"[i]n all towns or cities, a majority of the whole
number of members to which such corporation is entitled,
including the mayor in towns and cities of less than 12, 000
population, shall be necessary to constitute a quorum."
§ 11-43-48, Ala. Code 1975.
2016 election cycle, Ed May II was elected to the position of
mayor of Fairfield, and Penny was elected to the position of
council president. It is undisputed that May did not attend
any council meetings for 90 consecutive days, beginning
October 1, 2018. Section § 11-40-25(b), Ala. Code
1975, provides that "[a]ny elected municipal official
who misses all regular and special called council or
commission meetings for 90 consecutive days, beginning on the
date of any absence, shall be removed from office by
operation of law." An "elected municipal
official" includes "any mayor ... elected or
appointed to municipal office whose presence at council or
commission meetings is counted towards establishing a
quorum." § 11-40-25(a), Ala. Code 1975.
its January 22, 2019, meeting, the council relied on the
above-referenced statutes to justify approving a resolution
providing that May was removed from the office of mayor as a
matter of law. Penny was subsequently proclaimed mayor by a
vote of the council.
filed a quo warranto action pursuant to § 6-6-591(a)(1),
Ala. Code 1975, seeking a declaration that Penny did not hold
the office of mayor. Following a hearing, the trial court
entered an order holding that May had been removed from the
office of mayor by operation of law pursuant to §
11-40-25, that Penny lawfully held the office of mayor, and
that a vacancy existed in the office of council president.
This appeal followed.
facts of this case are undisputed. Therefore, this Court,
applying a de novo standard of review, must determine whether
the trial court misapplied the law to those undisputed facts.
Kendrick v. Advertiser Co., 213 So.3d 573 (Ala.
2016). According to Williams-Scott, the local act provides
for the composition and election process for the governing
body of Fairfield. Williams-Scott appears to argue that the
local act requires that the office of mayor be totally
independent of the council and that, therefore, the mayor is
prohibited from voting at or presiding over council
meetings. To that extent, Williams-Scott argues that
the local act conflicts with § 11-43-2 and §
11-43-48. Assuming Williams-Scott is correct that, in the
event of a conflict, the local act would control over the
more general statutes, she simply has not demonstrated that
anything in the local act forbids the mayor from
participating in the council's legislative functions.
Williams-Scott cites only one section of the local act
establishing that the mayor-council form of government
consists of "six single-member districts with one
at-large member, to be designated as president of the city
council, which shall ...