Murdock appointment will not stand

The ongoing saga of Bobby Armstead’s expired seat on the Demopolis City Schools Board of Education will continue for at least a little longer.

It appeared resolution had been reached Thursday night when Demopolis Mayor Mike Grayson along with councilmen Jack Cooley and Bill Meador voted to appoint Conrad Murdock to the BOE. The vote came in the absence of councilman Melvin Yelverton and in the wake of the departures of councilmen Thomas Moore and Mitchell Congress, who walked out of the meeting in protest of the vote.

Laurie Lein, general counsel for the Alabama League of Municipalities, informed The Watchman Friday morning that the 3-0 vote to put Murdock on the board of education would not stand.

“In the absence of a quorum in the room where a vote takes place, I think that calls into question the vote because you need a quorum to conduct business and that takes four warm bodies in the room,” Lein said.

“We lost a quorum after the walkout,” Grayson said after speaking with Lein Friday.

Moore and Congress walked out in protest of the vote based upon their feelings that their counterparts on the council were trying to appoint Murdock to the board while they had the votes to do so.

Grayson admitted he was surprised when the issue came up during Thursday’s council meeting, but said he voted in favor of Murdock’s appointment based on loyalty to the man he recruited into the process.

“I feel loyalty to Conrad Murdock. He has stuck through this process,” Grayson, who is adamant that Murdock would be an asset to the board of education, said. “No one can tell me what is wrong with Conrad Murdock other than he works at Rock Tenn. That’s it in a nutshell.”

For months, the council had been deadlocked over the board appointment with Yelverton, Moore and Congress voting in favor of Freddie Armstead Jr. and Grayson, Cooley and Meador supporting Murdock.

After the issue came back up Thursday, Congress expressed his desire for the council to wait until Yelverton was in attendance before proceeding with a vote on the board of education matter, citing the council’s history of nominating potential appointees in one meeting and voting on them in the next.

After being told that both nominees had already been vetted, Congress withdrew his nomination of Armstead and submitted Lester Mitchell for consideration.

“The other guy that Mitchell nominated as a stalling tactic, Lester Mitchell, is a fine man. Freddie Armstead Jr. is a fine man. But we’re not going to get anywhere if we don’t have some compromise,” Grayson said.

The scene that played out was largely reminiscent of an August 2011 session when Congress, Moore and Yelverton opted to vote on the hotly-contested issue of the renovation of Fire Station No. 2 during a meeting Cooley could not attend. The power play broke a longstanding deadlock and forced the passage of the vote.

When similar tactics were employed Thursday, Congress and Moore walked out of the meeting, leaving the remaining council members unable to legally take action on any issue.

According to Lein, the departures of Moore and Congress combined with the absence of Yelverton left the city council with no quorum, rendering it incapable of doing city business.

“They didn’t have a quorum at that time then. Generally I’d probably say in a situation like that, the presiding officer should announce whether they were leaving to go to the restroom or leaving leaving,” Lein said. “They probably shouldn’t be taking votes at all, whether they take a restroom break or they are leaving leaving, unless a quorum is present.”

Grayson expressed his exasparation regarding the council Friday morning.

“This council has been a great disappointment to me,” Grayson said.

As for what happens with the board of education vote, Grayson said he is hopeful the issue will be turned over to the incoming city council that will take office in November.

“My opinion is to let’s let the new council deal with it because I’m thinking that the positions are too firmly entrenched with these guys as is evidenced by last night,” Grayson said. “We had other business to attend to and (Congress and Moore) chose to take the easy way out. There were other points of business that we needed to address, probably the biggest of which is, the new budget, which I guess we are going to have to throw over to the new council as well.”

Check for further updates as they become available.