Vincent citizens question actions of mayor, council

Published 5:10 pm Thursday, May 7, 2009

Some residents in Vincent are voicing concerns about a company that is buying up land with the apparent hopes of developing a lime quarry there.

They are also concerned that their mayor, Ray McAllister, and members of the Town Council have been a part of unpublicized meetings with representatives of the mining company.

Those citizens have formed a committee and will meet to discuss the issue on Thursday, May 14, at 6 p.m. at the Evangel Temple Deliverance Church on Highway 62.

“There might be 20 or 30 people there, and there might be 100,” said Charles Cantrell, who is one of the committee organizers.

He is up in arms about the prospects of a quarry in Vincent, as well as what he calls the “corrupt” actions of Vincent elected officials.

Cantrell, who lives at 4740 Highway 62 in what he claims is the area where the quarry is proposed, said he and a number of other community residents are frustrated by the lack of information available about the plans for the quarry.

He said he has tried repeatedly to get information from McAllister and members of the Town Council, but to no avail.

“All the mayor can say is, ‘I don’t know anything,’ but he obviously does because he’s been meeting with these people. He admitted to me that he has been meeting with them, but said he doesn’t know any details. The mayor hasn’t done anything but be evasive,” Cantrell said.

McAllister has refused to return repeated phone messages left for him in an attempt to get his comments.

Vincent Town Attorney, Corey Moore, confirmed for the Shelby County Reporter on Wednesday that the Vecellio Group of West Palm Beach, Fla., has purchased more than 1,000 acres in Vincent over the last several years. Moore also confirmed that McAllister, members of the Town Council and members of Vincent’s zoning board met individually or in small groups with lawyers representing Vecellio.

Those meetings all took place on the same day, March 31.

Cantrell questioned why the meetings between company representatives, council and zoning board members were held anywhere other than in an open meeting.

“I think that’s corruption in government,” Cantrell said. “They say this is the way business is always done in Alabama. I don’t think it’s right, and I don’t think it’s fair. We elected the mayor and council members to represent us, and for them to go behind our backs and hold secret meetings is corruption. What are they trying to hide from us?”

Alabama’s open meeting laws require that municipal bodies give notice to the public before meeting, even when the body will simply deliberate matters it expects to come before the body at a later date and time. A town council is considered to be in a meeting when it has a quorum, or a simple majority of its voting members present.

Dennis Bailey, an attorney who represents the Alabama Press Association and its members, said the issue of serial meetings, like these, has not yet been litigated in Alabama courts.

A serial meeting is one in which a government body holds a series of meetings with small groups of the governing body, rather than as a whole, to discuss a public issue in private with the intent of avoiding a quorum.

He said courts in other states have decided that serial meetings are, indeed, in violation of those states’ open meetings laws.

“The position of the Alabama Press Association is that these serial meetings are in violation of the Alabama’s open meetings act and with the appropriate case we intend to litigate,” Bailey said.