DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) - New developments in a lawsuit that challenges the form of government in Decatur. A new offer is on the table that would settle the issue once and for all. Attorney Carl Cole tells WHNT News 19 a state statute could allow the River City to adopt a new form of government without giving up any of the existing voting districts.
WHNT News 19 obtained a copy of the letter attorney Carl Cole sent to Decatur city officials and their attorneys Friday. It offers to call into play an Alabama statute (Ala. Code § 11-43-63) that Cole says would allow the city to retain the five voting districts it currently has, while switching from a mayor-council to a council-manager form of government.
Voters in Decatur approved changing to a council-manager form of government in a 2010 referendum. However the city never made the change saying it would be in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act because it would reduce the number of districts from five to three, eliminating the one majority black district Decatur currently has.
"What could happen is they adopt the referendum, and immediately adopt an ordinance that changes the council districts. It's allowed in Alabama law, a judge doesn't have to approve it, it's a miracle pill for the problems ailing the city right now," Cole explained.
Mayor Don Kyle did not respond to our requests for an interview for this story, but under this and Cole's other proposed settlement, his is the only job at city hall that would change. The mayor would no longer be the city's top administrator. Those duties would be handled by a city manager hired by and answerable to the city council. Cole says there has been no response from the city regarding this later settlement offer.
Mayor Kyle has publicly said the lawsuit has stopped the council from being able to borrow money. He also says it jeopardizes planned developments like the Sweetwater proposal which would bring a Bass Pro Outdoor Shop store to Decatur.