Davis is mayor, Ellison resigns

Published 7:33 pm Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The town of Dozier has its fourth mayor in the last 13 months as Mayor Pro-Tem Karen Davis was sworn in Monday night after a 3-2 vote. Council member Bob Morrison was approved as the new Mayor Pro-Tem, and the Council received a letter of resignation from Council member Jane Ellison of District One. The Dozier Town Council will now be seeking to fill two vacancies, one for District One and the other for District Two.

The council held its regular meeting Monday night at the Jan Cook Community Center in front of a standing-room-only crowd. The council, for the most part, followed its agenda for the meeting. However, one issue did come up concerning Attorney John Nichols remaining as the town’s attorney.

“We have this issue that says Mr. Nichols is our town attorney,” Council member Linda Hutto said. “When did that become official? Since we were nominated and took over Nov. 3, we didn’t elect him as our town attorney; does he have a right to sit there?”

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“I’m assuming I still serve as your parliamentarian,” Nichols said.

“We don’t have $150 for you to come to our meeting and sit here and do parliamentary procedure when we’re sitting here for $25 to serve our town,” Linda Hutto said.

Council member Bob Morrison made the motion to discuss the issue since it was not on the agenda. The council approved the motion.

“I’ve served this town council as long as I’ve served as an attorney, for 32 years,” Nichols explained. “We have done that through an annual retainer; the town retained me—my last bill was last spring for a year—it was $150 to represent the town for an entire year. That entire retainer covers advising, writing letters, advising the mayor, giving advice to your most recent mayor pro-tem,… I’ve been talking with your chief of police probably half a dozen times about legal advice—none of those were charged to the town; it is all retainer work. I only charge the town when I am asked to do something like come to a meeting. I was asked to do that dozens of times before, and I’ve billed for that and billed the town of Dozier; I believe the Mayor has the legal authority to ask for legal advice, and the Mayor feels like legal advice is necessary.”

“I got a letter from Councilman Hutto and Councilman Morrison last week asking me not to come to this meeting,” Nichols continued. “I don’t respond to such instructions. I respond to the town council. If the town council tells me they don’t want me here, or they want me to go, then you will not see that door hit me in the butt. There are a lot of other things I would rather be doing tonight than being down here. I only answer to the town council.”

“Then who is the town council?” Hutto asked.

“I’ve been asked by Mrs. (Mary Jo) Dozier several times and at the request of the Mayor,” Nichols said to Hutto.

“What we’re saying is we are new to the office and all this is just throwed at us,” Hutto said.

“Well, I wish you’d just called me or asked me…” Nichols began before being interrupted by Hutto.

“Well, nobody knowed you was the town attorney,” Hutto said.

“I’ve been the town attorney for 32 years,” Nichols said.

“If the town council says you don’t want me anymore, I’ll be glad to leave,” Nichols added. “But so far, I’m retained through April, I think, as your attorney.”

“According to the League of Municipalities, each incoming administration has to elect, appoint, or whatever, all positions—that’s what I was told,” Morrison said. “You don’t have the job for life—each incoming administration, which became as of Nov. 4—it’s basically a formality, but it has to be done.”

“I’ve been doing work– I’ve been on retainer; if y’all want to fire me, that’s fine, but it hasn’t been done yet,” Nichols said.

“So can we make a motion we fire you?” Hutto asked.

“In the appropriate time, you can,” Nichols said. “And I’ll be gone so quick, you won’t even know I was here.”

“Well, when will that appropriate time be?” Hutto asked.

“When you take on new business tonight,” Nichols said.

“Okay, that’s all we needed to know,” Hutto said.

At the end of the meeting, Karen Davis, Abbie Langston and Jannie Bush voted to keep Nichols as the town’s attorney on retainer; Bob Morrison and Linda Hutto voted against it. The motion passed on the 3-2 vote.

Toward the end of the meeting, Linda Hutto nominated Bob Morrison for mayor of Dozier.

Council member Abbie Langston nominated Mayor Pro-Tem Karen Davis.

Johnny Nichols advised the candidates that they could vote for themselves.

Morrison and Hutto voted for Morrison; Davis and Langston voted for Davis. After much hesitation, Council member Jannie Bush voted for Karen Davis, who won the position as mayor on a 3-2 vote.

Attorney Nichols then proceeded to swear in Karen Davis as the new mayor of Dozier. At that time, Linda Hutto walked out of the room.

The council then read and accepted the letter of resignation of Council member Jane Ellison from District One.

Council member Jannie Bush nominated Bob Morrison as Mayor Pro-Tem. The motion was approved by the council unanimously.

Council member Linda Hutto returned to the meeting after that.