We’re Toast?

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The series of insults directed at Northport Council Member Judy Hayes continued at the first Council meeting of November, 2015. It could be that the Northport, Alabama government has largely been run by Good Ole Boys. The fact that Hayes is among three women who’ve ever been elected to the Council in the history of Northport may have made her a target for the kind of unprofessional conduct that has been exhibited by men in positions of authority.

An “apology” made for Hayes alleged activity by Northport Mayor Bobby Herndon was described in a Tuscaloosa News editorial: “Herndon’s apology seemed more aimed at embarrassing Hayes, particularly when it was made in her absence. Instead, Herndon embarrassed his city.”

A “Resolution Regarding Shirley Place” passed by the Council on July 13, 2015, which had no practical effect in terms of the requirements of existing law, was seemingly designed to punish Hayes for her requests for information.

Hayes responded to the action by the Council: “I was astonished that this resolution asks the Council to prevent me from asking the City Administrator and City employees any questions about the use of taxpayer money. Many of the documents that I have requested have not been provided to me. Surely the Council is concerned as I am about money that is unaccounted for? Can an elected official not be allowed to ask employees questions that concern taxpayer money?

“The issue of my being able to request information already should be governed by the Alabama Open Records Act.  There should be no need – and it’s wholly inappropriate – for the City Council to direct government employees to refuse to respond to any of my requests for records.  The law outlines the circumstances when a request can be refused.  If those circumstances exist, the City needs to invoke the law.  If not, they need to respond to any requests for information that I make.”

The latest and perhaps the strangest insult to Hayes was a comment made in a public setting by City Administrator Scott Collins. Former Council Member Jody Jobson played a recording of it during the Public Comment period at the Council meeting on November 2nd.

Jobson: “Well, we had a meeting Thursday night and it was brought to our attention and I’m quoting you. I can assure, not at that meeting, but at a different spot. I’m quoting you. ‘I can assure you that if you get a council or a group of people that are run by three Judy Hayes-like people, we’re toast. We’re beyond toast.’  And I’d like to know what you meant by that when you said it? Was it after our meeting  on Thursday night? Or to whom was it said?”
Collins: “I don’t have any idea. You said I said, I don’t– I can’t begin to answer that, I’m sorry.”
Jobson: “You say you did not say it?”
Collins: “Sir, you– I’m not going to debate it. Are you asking me or telling me? We’re going to have to–“
Jobson: “I have a tape right here of you saying it and I’d like to get the answer to my question. I’ll be glad to play it and see if you can’t recognize your own voice.”
Collins: “I wouldn’t–“
Jobson plays recording: “I assure you, if you get a group that’s run by three Judy Hayes-type people, we’re toast…”
Collins: “Yes sir, that’s me.”

There is not much likelihood of City Administrator Collins facing any serious consequences for having uttered such a defamatory thing about a Council Member, even though he serves technically as an employee at the pleasure of the Council. Hayes has certainly faced similar abuse from elected officials. In a world different from the bizarre domain of Northport, Alabama, it might seem incredible that an un-elected governmental employee would be allowed to keep his job after his “toast” remark.

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