By Nathan Prewett, For The Tribune
LEEDS – During a meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 22, the Leeds City Council addressed its continuing dispute with the Moton Educational Foundation regarding the Moton Community Center’s board of directors and litigation that was recently filed against the city.
All council members except for Kenneth Washington were present as the meeting began with a statement from Mayor David Miller. He addressed an announcement that he made in the previous meeting on Feb. 7 in which he said that the Moton Educational Foundation had filed litigation.
The foundation filed an injunction against the city with Moton Community Center Director Gloria Haynes saying that the city was “interfering” with the foundation’s practices.
The council has proposed taking nominations for an all-citizens of Leeds board as stipulated by articles of incorporation when the property was turned over to the foundation in 2012. Currently, there is one member who resides in Leeds.
Last night Miller again stressed the stipulation in his statement, which he began by saying that an injunction was filed to prevent the city from selling the center’s property. He said that the city does not own the property and could not sell it in any case.
In relation to the board, Miller said that the foundation has “enjoined” them from forming a board, but he countered with saying that the city desired to make a list of nominees from Leeds to be turned over to the foundation for consideration.
“They’ve also filed a complaint trying to go into a lawsuit against me and the city for those same items,” he said.
He went on to say that the foundation “doesn’t want what they’re proposing,” referring to Priority Soldier’s proposal to establish a veterans’ service at the center several months back. saying that he spoke with the head of the state’s veterans administration.
“And it’s ridiculous to consider anyway because the Veterans Administration just spent – what- $17, $18 million in Irondale for that exact same purpose,” he said. “And they don’t want unqualified people duplicating what they’re doing already. So I’m just letting you know that we’re going to fight this to the extent that we’re involved.”
He said that they were only involved by the stipulation made in the articles on the board being made up of Leeds citizens, also mentioning ex officio members being able to vote on board members.
Haynes was present in the audience and stood up to speak but was cut off by Miller, who said she could speak later during the public comments. When she tried to speak again Miller asked her to be seated or be escorted out of the building.
City Attorney Scott Barnett advised that the council add a resolution authorizing the city’s attorneys to apply to defend and request to “declare the rights of all parties, and rights and obligations of the citizens.” This was approved unanimously.
Haynes spoke on the matter during public comments and insisted that the foundation did not want to fight the city.
“First of all, the Moton Center does not want to fight with the City of Leeds,” Haynes said. “That’s not the intention. We do not have a suit against the City of Leeds. We only ask for an injunction to keep, because you had a resolution to say that you were putting people on the board and we felt like if you’re going to refer people to the board, that’s fine. But the sitting board is a legal board and they have the ability to vote those folks in or out.”
She said this is one of their bylaws at the center and that when the Priority Soldier proposal was made, they only wanted a letter of support from the city, also adding that their 501 status has been reinstated.
After Haynes finished, attorney Johnny Brunson said that the center’s action was a suit and advised them not to further speak about the matter.
Several spoke during public comments, including former council member Susan Carswell, who brought up the Main Street Alabama project discussed at the last meeting. During the public comments portion of that meeting she asked about it being in the budget and told that it was amended for $50,000 to a project director and $105,000 for operating it if the city decides to pay the costs.
“And yet it seems Main Street can’t get any money out of the city,” Carswell said, adding that she was told by other residents that the money was allegedly being used to pay chamber of commerce employees.
“Well, we don’t have any information from Main Street that would allow us to go ahead and spend any money,” Miller said. “It’s the same as it was the first time we tried to do something with Main Street and they can’t tell us what they’re going to do.”
Carswell then said she was told that the chamber was corporation and paid salaries with money from their dues. She went on to say that someone from the Redevelopment Authority said that the money from Main Street was being used for the chamber’s salaries and advised talking to them. Afterward, she spoke on the library decision and criticized the failure of the resolution.
Library Director Melanie Carden made a request to be allocated funds for the library in an amendment to the city’s budget. When the resolution was brought up during new business this action failed for lack of a second, though Councilwoman DeVoris Ragland-Pierce made the motion and expressed her support.
In other business the council:
- Approved a resolution to renew the contract with animal control and pound services,
- Approved an added item to spend $6,200 in confiscated funds for what Police Chief Paul Irwin said would be for police purposes, with him adding that an officer in the department will be awarded at a national drug interdiction conference in Chicago, IL.
Meetings are held on the first and third Mondays of every month at City Hall on 1400 9th Street Northeast. Agenda packets can be seen online at the City of Leeds website.