League opinion: Council members didn’t break law

Published 10:42 am Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The three members of the Opp City Council named in a civil suit alleging they violated the Open Meetings Act earlier this month may not have broken the law.

Two weeks ago, council members T.D. Morgan, Bobby Ray Owens and Mary Brundidge were served complaints from a suit from Shelly Tomberlin, who is seeking to open a Golden Rule Bar-B-Q restaurant next to the Best Western on the bypass in Opp. Tomberlin is alleging that the three council members convened a pre-arranged, unadvertised meeting at the Blue Flame Grill after the August 1 regular council meeting adjourned at city hall.

According to a letter from Lori Lein, general counsel of the Alabama League of Municipalities, to Morgan, who asked for direction on what constitutes a quorum of the Opp City Council under the Open Meetings Act, the three members do not constitute a quorum.

The letter refers to Section 36-25A-2(12) of the Alabama Code which provides that “unless otherwise provided by law, a quorum is a majority of the voting members of a governmental body,” and that section 11-43-48 of the Code provides that “in 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.”

In 2013, the city of Opp had 6,691 residents.

“Opp is a mayor council form of government with five council members and a mayor,” Lein said in her letter. “Because Opp is under 12,000 in population, the mayor sits as a voting member of the council and as such, the city has six voting members of the council. Based on the definition of quorum in the Open Meetings Act, a quorum would be four members.”

The Star-News confirmed with the League Tuesday that they sent Morgan the letter.

The hearing is set for Sept. 1, at 3 p.m. in Covington County Circuit Court.