Tomberlin’s suit: Council members broke law

Published 12:39 am Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Andalusia woman seeking to build a barbecue restaurant in Opp is suing three Opp council members for violation of the Open Meetings Act and defamation of character.

As of 11 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016, T.D. Morgan, Bobby Ray Owens and Mary Brundidge had been served the complaints.

Shelly Tomberlin is being represented by Elba attorney Matthew Brunson.

0802-Golden-ruleShe and her husband, John Tomberlin, appeared at last week’s Opp Council meeting and discussed their plan to open a Golden Rule Bar-B-Q restaurant next to the Best Western on the bypass in Opp. The property is owned by Opp’s Utilities Board, and would have to be transferred to the city for the Tomberlins’ proposal to work. Mayor John Bartholomew said in June the proposal was to sell the restaurant owners, then undisclosed, two acres at $3,000 per acre. The council took no action last week.

As part of Mrs. Tomberlin’s complaint, she alleges that the three council members convened a pre-arranged, unadvertised meeting at the Blue Flame Grill after the Aug. 1 regular council meeting adjourned at city hall.

Three members of the council constitutes a quorum, and state law requires public notice of any such meeting.

Tomberlin’s complaint says that the three held direct discussions and deliberations concerning the approval or disapproval of the project, the timeliness of the project as it relates to the upcoming municipal election, and the economic incentive package which would accompany the project.

Tomberlin also said the three held discussions about her good name and character as well as the plaintiff’s licensee, Golden Rule Franchising LLC.

She further states that the defendants defamed her character by making slanderous, false and misleading statements concerning her and the franchise.

The complaint states the trio discussed how they would vote, as well.

She is seeking $1,000 or one half of each defendant’s monthly salary for injunctive relief.

She is also seeking another $1,000 in injunctive relief for a second violation of the Open Meetings Act.

A third count is for defamation and she is requesting that the court enter a judgment on her behalf that is jointly and severely in the amount that is in excess of the minimum jurisdictional limits of the court, but not more than $50,000, and award exemplary damages, not in excess of $50,000.

Brundidge, who provided the Star-News with copies of the complaint served on her, said the accounts are not factual and she feels the suit is politically motivated.

“I will have to consult with an attorney and continue to do my part as a servant in the city of Opp,” she said.