Vincent citizens seek to recall mayor, council members

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

VINCENT – Vincent citizens were turned away from town hall as the number of attendees exceeded fire code limits during the town council meeting March 1.

Some Vincent citizens filed recall petitions against four of the five town council members, as well as Mayor Ray McAllister.

Vincent citizen Charles Cantrell presented petitions to Vincent’s town clerk, Joy Marler, with signatures of 30 percent of the registered voters who voted in Vincent’s last election, or 130 signatures, Cantrell said.

Cantrell said the citizens that signed the petition feel the town council’s not acting in their best interests.

“This is something we have considered for some time as our elected officials in Vincent continue to turn their back on those of us who elected them to serve our best interests,” Cantrell said. “These petitions serve as a good faith effort to make certain our government is one of the people, by the people and for the people whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed.”

Cantrell actively campaigned against White Rock Quarries’ request to rezone 886 acres of land to accommodate a proposed limestone quarry. During the town council meeting, he told the council the petitions were not circulated out of animosity.

“I want to emphasize that there’s no animosity or malice from the citizens, and we hope no one takes it as that,” said Cantrell.

The Vincent Town Council ultimately granted White Rock’s request.

McAllister said he believes the town council made the correct choices concerning the quarry.

“We’re disappointed that some of the citizens feel that we’re not doing our job. We feel like we are. We feel that, as a council, we made a decision we felt was the best for the town of Vincent,” McAllister said.

“Vincent has not had good income. The sales tax has been down, and income to the town is just not that good. This is a chance for us to increase our income and for the town to start growing again,” he added.

The petitions call for a recall of Mayor Ray McAllister and council members Bridgette Jordan Smith, Johnny Edwards, Larry King and Mary Lee Reynolds. Ralph Kimble is the only council member exempt from the recall petitions.

Kimble was the only council member to oppose granting White Rock’s request.

The citizen group serving the petitions referenced statute 11-4E-168 of the state constitution, which states, “The mayor or any commissioner shall be subject to recall. To institute a recall election, any registered voter may present a petition to the city clerk having the signatures of no less than 30 percent of the registered voters having voted in the last preceding election,” Cantrell said.

Following the town council meeting, however, McAllister explained the referenced statue only applies to Category 5 cities, and therefore, only Dothan.

“We feel that (this situation has) come out of left field,” McAllister said. “It’s not according to the statutes that are written. The only city in the state of Alabama that comes under that statute is a Category 5 city, which is Dothan, Alabama, and that’s it.”

The petitions, filed separately for each council member, said the citizens “are of the belief the town government is apathetic to public needs and demands thereby failing its constituency.”

“We pledged when we were elected that we would recruit industry in and start the town in a growth pattern to where we could provide better services to our citizens,” McAllister said. “Once we made a decision on the quarry, we feel like it’s going to be good for the town in the long run.”

The recall petitions request Marler start proceedings for an election to be held to recall the mayor and four council members.

After addressing the town council, Cantrell said the outcome rests with the council.

“The ball’s in their court,” Cantrell said. “According to the statute as we read it, they have 30 days to hold a recall election where the citizens will come down. They’ll vote yes to recall this one or no to that one. Then, whoever has the majority of the votes, if the majority votes to eliminate them, they’re gone.  And we’ll have another election.”

McAllister said, due to the misinterpretation of the statute, the council has no responsibility to respond.

“Nothing happens now,” he said. “We’re proceeding on and moving ahead.”

Cantrell said if a recall election does not occur, he’ll be planning on taking the issue to court.

“If they choose not to (hold a recall election), then the courts will decide if they’ve taken the proper action, but it’ll go to court,” he added. “Either way we’ll have a recall election or we’ll go to court, one of the two.”