The Birmingham News has finally noticed what the Birmingham Weekly figured out on Tuesday — Steven Hoyt’s election as City Council President Pro Tem may not be valid. When Councilor Roderick Royal was elected the new City Council President, he immediately became acting Mayor, displacing Carole Smitherman. The Mayor-Council Act says the Mayor cannot vote with the Council, but Royal went on to nominate and vote for Steven Hoyt as President Pro Tem, providing the fifth vote that put Hoyt over the top.
That could also call into question Carole Smitherman’s vote in the initial election, which she lost 5-4. Did her position as interim Mayor end as soon as the new Council was sworn in? If not, how could she vote with the Council? Her vote didn’t make any difference; Royal would have won anyway. Of course, if Hoyt had voted for her, as he allegedly promised, there would have been a 4-4 tie.
Rep. Demetrius Newton argues that both votes were inappropriate but says no harm was done. I can’t agree with that. Smitherman is still in the running to be the next mayor. Hoyt will be second in command on the City Council once Royal resumes his position as Council President. These are people with influence. They should at least adhere to the rules. Not to worry, though — the Alabama Legislature will get right on it:
State Rep. Demetrius Newton, a former Birmingham city attorney, said the controversy over the vote highlights the need for more clarity in the MayorCouncil Act. Newton said the question should be resolved by legislation rather than in court.
“This whole thing is a gray area that the Legislature is going to have to deal with,” he said.
Oh goody. Another relic of our crappy 1901 Constitution — an issue that should be resolved locally will once again waste legislative time, and we’ll likely get to watch the various factions of the Jefferson County delegation show their collective ass while they play power games.
Steven Hoyt, when questioned about the vote, responded with his usual humility and lack of ego:
Hoyt on Wednesday dismissed the notion of an illegal vote, saying council members had a chance to express concern Tuesday but said nothing. Hoyt maintains he is pro tem and will serve as council president while Royal serves as acting mayor. Hoyt made the committee assignments Wednesday afternoon.
“Voting won’t take place again,” Hoyt said. “I’m council president and I do not plan to relinquish my position. I was elected by a majority of the council.”
He does have a point about his fellow Council members. Why didn’t they consider these questions ahead of time? Didn’t they ask their attorney? That may not have helped much:
J. Richmond Pearson, the council’s legal adviser, said the dispute should be settled in court.
“All I can do is opine, and it does not carry any force whatsoever,” he said.
Good to know.
So — will this be resolved, or will it end up under a rug down at City Hall? My money’s on the rug. I hope I lose.