Letters for March 24

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 24, 2005

To the Editor:

On Monday, March 7, at the meeting of the Selma

City Council, Mayor (James) Perkins stated that the reason he had not given me the public information I had requested was that I had not come to him and asked for the information.

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On Tuesday, March 8, I went and asked him for the answers to the questions I had posed to department heads.

He did not give me the information.

Rather, he asked me to put my request in writing.

On Friday, March 11, I submitted to him the same questions in writing.

Two weeks have past and I still have not received the public information.

Regarding the mean spirited Resolution which the Crenshaw 5 directed at me at the March 7 council meeting because I asked for public information,

Attorney J. L. Chestnut, Jr., reportedly commented that the resolution was “shrewdly drawn” and that I would have a difficult time in a court case.

“Shrewdly drawn?” Attorneys at the Alabama League of Municipalities took one look at the Resolution and told the City Attorney and Mayor that it was ambiguous and needed to be reworked.

The Resolution originally drawn by City Attorney Nunn for the Crenshaw 5 is unconstitutional on its face, unconscionable in its intent, untenable before a court and unusually ill conceived.

Attorney Nunn should serve the Crenshaw 5 and the City’s best interests by telling them what the law really is: (1) All members of the public have the right to inspect records maintained by municipal governments.

Sections 36-12-40 and 36-12-41, Code of Alabama 1975, guarantee every citizen the right to inspect and make copies of all public writings, unless otherwise expressly provided by statute. (2) When a person appears before the records custodian at the proper time and place and gives a legitimate reason, the custodian cannot assume that the person is seeking the record for some illegitimate purpose and deny access. Excise Commission of Citronelle v. State, 60 So. 812, 814 (AL 1912). (3) The Alabama Supreme Court held that there is a presumption in favor of a record being public, except in narrowly construed cases. (Chambers v. Birmingham News, 552 So. 2d 854 (AL 1989) (4) The Supreme Court has also held that the party refusing to make a disclosure bears the burden of proving that the records should be withheld from


scrutiny. (Ibid.)

City Treasurer Ms. Mitchell reported that the council members had spent $38,702 on the trips to Indianapolis and Washington.

As a member of the Selma Housing Authority for 12 years, I went on numerous trips such as these; therefore, my problem is not with members going on trips.

My suggestion is that we rotate who goes on trips and send only 2-3 members on the same trip.

These members can then report to the entire Council helpful information. The City has had four straight years of deficit spending. When Council members spend money like this, we are well on the way to a fifth year in a row of deficit spending and eventual bankruptcy.

As I told the Mayor on Tuesday March 8, my sole reason for asking the questions and wanting the public information is to help me determine the financial condition of the city so that I may better serve the people of our city.

Until public records are made public, I continue to return to my original question.

What are the Crenshaw 5

trying to hide and what don’t they want me to know and why?

-Cecil Williamson

Councilman Ward 1