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Legality of BCDA board election in question

As Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow (D-Red Bay) handed over a letter from the Alabama Legislative Services Agency to Trisha Montgomery at a Monday morning press conference, Morrow said he was presenting the information to her as chairperson of the Bear Creek Development Authority Board.

Although Montgomery lost an election to Connie Morrison for the position at the BCDA board's February 9, 2018, meeting, Morrow reiterated that Montgomery was legally still the chairperson and the February election was void based on an opinion from attorneys with the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts and the Legislative Services Agency.

I have read the letter and know what it says so I am giving the letter to the chairperson of this board,” Morrow said.

The press conference was held at the BCDA main office. In addition to members of the media, Montgomery and board member Mark McNatt attended. Although all board members were contacted about the press conference, only two attended.

The letter Morrow referenced was a March 9, 2018, letter from John Treadwell, Deputy Director for the Legal Division of the Legislative Services Agency.

Treadwell's letter came in response to a meeting held last week in Montgomery to consider the legal validity of the BCDA's election of officers on February 9th.

At that meeting, Morrison was elected chairperson and Haleyville attorney Jeff Mobley vice-chairman. Franklin County Probate Judge Barry Moore was elected as secretary.

According to information relayed to the Legislative Services Agency, all BCDA board members were notified of the February 9th meeting by BCDA Manager Shannon McKinney. The email from McKinney did not indicate that officer elections would take place at the meeting.

Nine of the 14 BCDA directors attended that meeting, and Morrison was elected by a 5-4 margin after a voice vote.

According to BCDA's by-laws though, officers must be elected at a January meeting “by secret ballot and shall be chosen by a plurality of the votes cast.”

According to Treadwell's letter, “the election was conducted in violation of BCDA bylaws. If challenged, a court may hold the vote to be invalid and order a new vote to be conducted.”

Additionally, BCDA bylaws require written notice of every regular meeting by “mailing, postage prepaid, at least ten days prior to the date of the meeting.”

Based on that, Treadwell indicated with notice having come via email, the form of the notice was subject to legal challenge. Treadwell also indicated the only board members who would have standing to challenge the notice would be the five members who were not in attendance on February 9th.

Treadwell listed some options for how to proceed with the BCDA Board of Directors, including a revision of the bylaws, or dissolution of the board altogether through legislation.

He also referenced the Legislative Sunset Review Committee, which conducts 'sunset' reviews of state boards to determine whether they are performing their intended purpose and whether the board needs to be revised or eliminated through legislative action.

When contacted Monday afternoon, Morrison said she had seen Treadwell's letter and had forwarded it to BCDA Board attorney Jeff Bowling. Morrison said she would await legal advice from Bowling as to how to proceed. But she maintains she remains chairperson of the board.

That's what we pay our attorney for. He will look at this and get with legislative services and advise us how to proceed,” Morrison said. “I was elected chair at a meeting of the board and will continue in that role unless told otherwise.”

Morrison said she was not contacted by any board member regarding any questions as to the legality of the February 9th election. And the first she heard of any question was when she saw Treadwell's letter.

This has become extremely frustrating. But we'll take it one step at a time and that's all we can do,” Morrison said.

Morrison said the board would likely meet again in April.

Morrow said he contacted Treadwell after “receiving an inquiry from BCDA board members about possible improper procedure having taken place at a meeting.”

As a result, he set up a meeting with Treadwell, Rachel Riddle from the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts and Caleb Hindman with the Legislative Services Agency.

Board members presented evidence of improper procedure and the issue was studied by these individuals and a letter was sent to me,” Morrow said. “As chair of the BCDA board, I want to present this letter to you and let you take whatever action you deem necessary and it's up to you and the board to take it from here,” Morrow added.

Morrow, who has been critical of certain aspects of BCDA management in recent years, said he is keeping the option open to submit BCDA to the Sunset Review Committee.

If this board is not going to take control and become a functional entity that represents the will of the people, there is a Sunset Committee option,” Morrow said.

If this board does not become functional and properly represent all four counties (Franklin, Colbert, Winston and Marion), I will carry this agency before the Sunset Committee and ask that it be sunset and reorganized,” Morrow said.

Montgomery read a prepared statement at Monday's press conference:

As Governor Ivey's appointment to the BCDA Board of Directors my concern is to look out for the interest of the Great State of Alabama and the Bear Creek Watershed Area. I will work to uphold the Code of Alabama and the By-laws of the Bear Creek Development Agency. It is my hope that my fellow board members and staff will work towards the same goals together to do what we are supposed to do and bring Development to the watershed. I'll be calling for a board meeting in the coming weeks.”

Montgomery was asked if she considered the February 9th officer elections legally void.

Yes, based on what they say in this letter. I am still acting as chairperson of the BCDA Board of Directors. The election was not on the agenda,” Montgomery said.


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