Historical Commission leadership change addressed at council meeting

Published 11:14 am Monday, February 18, 2019


MONTEVALLO – A leadership change for the Montevallo Historic Preservation Commission was addressed in a Montevallo City Council meeting on Feb. 11.

Mayor Hollie Cost read aloud a letter addressed to her from the city’s attorney, J. Bentley Owens III, following the recent removal of Janice Seaman from the HPC chair position.

“At your request and for the benefit of the City Council, I have reviewed the letter dated February 5, 2019, to you expressing the opinion that you have no authority to remove the Chair of the Historical Commission or to otherwise manage the affairs of the City insofar as city officials are concerned,” Owens wrote. “Since no legal authority was cited in support of that conclusion, I thought it would be helpful for the City Council and you to reaffirm your authority to do so.”

The letter included sections of the city ordinance detailing the historical commission’s formation as an organization consisting of seven members, all Montevallo residents, nominated by the mayor and appointed by the City Council to serve three-year terms.

“The City Ordinance that established the Commission is silent on the subject of removal from office,” the letter read in part. “Code of Alabama section 11-68-3(d) provides that members of the commission may be removed for cause by the City Council. Accordingly, the general law of Alabama applies. As such, acting as Mayor, you have the authority to temporarily remove for cause any city official appointed by the City Council to a department, board, committee or commission created by the council, subject to council approval.”

Cost also read aloud a letter she had read to the historical commission board during a Jan. 29 special called meeting regarding the leadership change.

“It’s no secret that we have been experiencing differences between the leadership of the historic commission and other entities in the recent past,” Cost’s letter read. “These differences have impeded our ability to move forward and make important decisions. Make no mistake, I appreciate and respect differences of opinion but when a leader is working in direct conflict with the city, it becomes a tremendous roadblock to progress and can’t be tolerated.

“As the appointing authority of the city, it is my responsibility to ensure that we are making progress and that we are working as a team. I’ve tried a number of different strategies of accomplishing this over the years, but those were ultimately unsuccessful. So, unfortunately, the only option that remained was to institute a change in leadership.”

Cost wrote in the letter that she supported the remaining members of the historical commission and has confidence in them “to work as a team and to work with the city.”

“Given an upcoming expected increase in developments and projects that will need the support of the historic commission, it is important at this juncture that each of you are willing to serve in this manner moving forward,” she wrote. “If you are not, I will regrettably accept your resignation or ask you to step down.”

During citizen participation in the Feb. 11 council meeting, Seaman said a letter from her attorney was sent to Cost. Cost said she did not receive the letter until Saturday, Feb. 9.

When a resident asked about Seaman’s status on the HPC board, Cost said, “She is no longer a member of the historical commission.”

The City Council on Feb. 11 approved to appoint Daisy Washington and Joyce Jones to the HPC board to fill two vacancies created by former board member Susan Godwin, who was appointed to the Design Review Committee Board in January, and Seaman. Councilman Rusty Nix abstained from the vote.

There is currently no HPC chair. The historical commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 5.