Representative angered by Senator’s ‘unintentional’ bill

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 8, 2004

Despite being struck down by a large margin in the State Legislature several months ago, a bill giving Alabama mayors appointment powers over city councils was recently resubmitted by Sen. Hank Sanders.

The bill, which proposes a re-wording of a current law, reads, in part, “the mayor should have the power to appoint all officers whose appointment is not otherwise provided for by state law.”

This same bill was defeated 62-8 in late 2003 after vocal opposition by State Reps. Yusuf Salaam and William Dukes.

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Earlier in the week, Salaam called the resubmission an attempt by Mayor James Perkins Jr. and Sanders to undermine appointments made by the Selma City Council.

“The mayor has never accepted the legal vote of the council,” Salaam said. “The mayor should, however reluctantly, at least publicly cooperate with the city council.”

However, in a press release Friday,

Perkins said he was unaware the bill had been resubmitted by Sanders until he received a copy of it late Wednesday afternoon.

“I was surprised Hank resubmitted the bill. Shortly after that, I called Senator Hank Sanders and asked him about this,” Perkins said. “He stated that he had simply asked his staff to resubmit every bill that did not pass during the last legislative session. He stated that he did not intentionally resubmit this bill but it got caught up in the instructions to his staff,” Perkins said.

Perkins added that he will not ask Sanders to remove the bill because it has already been submitted.

“If the senator mistakenly submits a bill…., he could make one very easy request to have that bill removed from consideration,” Salaam said. “As a matter of fact, if the legislation was a mistake, I can assure you, it could have been removed.”

The bill which failed last year was drafted to adjust a current law.

The current law gives Alabama mayors appointment powers for all offices whose appointments aren’t covered by law.

The new bill specifies “state law.” The Alabama Attorney General’s office ruled that the current law allows for city councils to make appointments.

Salaam said he was never a supporter of the bill because a mayor is not an expert in all areas of the city and department heads should be allowed to do their jobs without mayoral interference.

“We have to let the people who are trained to do their jobs do them,” Salaam said.

Not all city council members agree with Salaam.

Councilwoman Bennie Ruth Crenshaw said she would like to see Sanders’ bill passed.

“The mayor is the person who runs the day-to-day operations of the city,” Crenshaw said. “The council is not there full time. We don’t know what goes on every day.”

Crenshaw said it would be best for the city if the mayor had the authority to hire department heads who understood his philosophy.

“The mayor could tell a department head to do something, then this person is told something different by the city council,” Crenshaw said.

“This bill could stop the conflicts between department heads, city council and the mayor.”

Council member James Durry, however, says he is vehemently against the idea.

“Separation of powers in terms of national and state governments allows for checks and balances,” Durry said. “Our forefathers put that there to keep out tyrannical officials in government.”

Durry said keeping the powers to hire and fire department heads with the city council ensures the city government is fairly representing the citizens of Selma.

“The council fought to have this power in the last administration,” Durry said. “We need to leave it where it is.”

Whether it was a simple mistake or not, Salaam says he will continue to oppose the bill.

“I won that fight because 95 percent of the house knows that it’s improper protocol,” Salaam said. “I didn’t ask for this fight. I fought the bill then and with the grace of God I will use every ounce of my energy to fight it.”