Illegal meetings in River Falls?

Published 12:09 am Friday, September 28, 2012

It appears that members of the River Falls Town Council have held at least three illegal council meetings in the last three months, and during the most recent, appointed a new town clerk.

Under Alabama law, no meeting – even an emergency meeting – can be held without proper notice. Generally, notices are posted and provided to the media at least 24 hours prior to the meeting. Law also dictates that meetings must be held at least twice a month, unless otherwise decreed by ordinance. For River Falls, meetings should be held on the first Tuesday of each month.

Leo Smith, a councilwoman since “around” 2009, said Thursday, she resigned her seat and was appointed as the town clerk at a special called meeting held on Aug. 31 – three days after law enforcement executed two search warrants at town hall and Mayor Mary Hixon’s home and place of employment.

Smith, who was defeated in the municipal election by James Gary Wages, said a quorum – which included herself, Hixon and council members Hamner Curry and Olean Bean – was in attendance. It is unclear if Councilman Loy Ray Morgan was in attendance; however, Smith admitted that councilwoman Mattie Freeney wasn’t invited to the August meeting.

“(Curry) made the motion and (Bean) seconded it,” Smith said. “I said I would do it without pay because we’re trying to get something straightened out. I plan to resign when the new bunch (of council people) takes office. I’m just trying to help.”

Smith said her primary duties are to take minutes at council meetings and to sign checks, and residents should continue to contact Hixon with any complaints.

“We didn’t call (Freeney),” she said. “The meeting was at 9:10 a.m. She was at work.”

Smith said the council has not met since then; however, attempts to organize a meeting last week failed because there was no quorum.

“I know (Smith and Hixon) tried last week,” Councilwoman Olean Bean said Thursday. “They came by looking for me, but I wasn’t home.”

When told of meeting requirements under state law and provided copies of the statutes by The Star-News, Smith said she was unaware “of all that.”

Freeney said the last documented council meeting she could recall occurred in 2010.

“It was spring, two years ago,” she said. “And the last time I asked about a meeting, (Hixon) said she would let me know if there was business we needed to meet about.”

Freeney said she was also not invited to two other “council meetings” – each held at Hixon’s workplace, one to qualify candidates for office and the other to certify the results of the Aug. 28 election.

She said she was not notified of any of those meetings.