Lawsuit Could Force Decatur To Change Form Of Government

DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) – Decatur’s mayor and each member of the city council are being sued over their jobs. It stems from a referendum 4 years ago when the residents of Decatur voted to change to a council-manager form of government. Those changes never took place and now the courts are being asked to force the change.

We wanted to know what happens to the current mayor and council if the lawsuit is successful. We asked the attorney who filed the suit. Carl Cole says there are several options, and he’d like to sit down with city leaders and discuss them.

The effort to change Decatur’s form of government began in 2009. Voters approved the idea the following year, and that’s as far as it’s gone. Gary Voketz says its time to finish the job.

“That’ll give us a professional, trained, educated, experienced city manager operating a $50-million dollar business… As opposed to someone who’s elected in a popularity contest,” says retired city planner Gary Volketz, who is suing city officials.

Decatur attorney Carl Cole is handling the suit. He campaigned on this very issue when he ran for mayor in 2012.

“The Voting Rights Act, as it applied to the city manager, was struck down last summer. That was their only excuse for not implementing this, Cole tells WHNT News 19. He adds, “We filed the lawsuit in what we believe is the simplest way possible, to cause the least harm to the city. Hopefully the council will recognize that and they won’t try to hurt the city by fighting it. They just need to agree to go along with the will of the people and enact the council-manager form of government.”

The Voting Rights Act came into play because changing to a council-manager form of government would alter Decatur from 5 voting districts to only 3. So there is concern that black representation on the council could be diminished.

We made repeated efforts to speak with Mayor Don Kyle and City Attorney Herman Marks Friday, but were told they were unavailable.


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