NEW - The City of Midway held a special meeting on Tuesday, April 23rd, to decide what they were going to do with regard to an injunctive order given by 2nd Judicial Circuit Court Judge James O. Shelfer’s order to get Midway officials to instruct supervisor of elections Shirley Knight to remove Charles Willis’ name from the ballot as a candidate for the District 4 seat on the Midway Council for the election to be held on Tuesday, April 30th because he does not now live the District 4, and indeed has not lived there since early 2009.
At that Tuesday meeting, interim city manager Roosevelt Morris told the council about the judge’s order to remove Charles Willis from the ballot, and then send it to supervisor of elections Shirley Knight. “We can appeal the order, appeal his decision or write the resolution to Shirley Knight,” said city attorney Henry Hunter. The judge’s order mandates that Willis be removed from the Midway council,
“That also brings in that another council member also lives outside of his district, but also has a reason for living in Havana temporarily. We also need to consider the removal of Charlie Smith,” said councilwoman Delores Madison. “This is a mandate, the attorney has indicated that the judge’s order is final; no other options are available,” said councilman Jerrod Holton. Attorney Hunter said: “The court said the city failed to do what it should have done. It said the city should have known of his non-residency.”
Roosevelt Morris agreed. “I spoke with an election attorney and other cities and the League of Cities. They all said Midway was wrong and had no other options,” said Morris. Judge Shelfer, in his order, that there was overwhelming evidence and testimony at the hearing showed that he did not live in District 4 and actually lived in an apartment at Ochlockonee Apartments. The mobile home that he claimed as his residence has been condemned by the city. The property manager at the apartments testified that Willis has resided there since early 2009.
Attorney Hunter said having a District 4 representative was the only option open to the city. “If we address this now and do the proper things during a special election that will be held in August, I suggest we leave the issue open for the special election date,” said Madison.
Mayor Ella Barber, running the meeting through Skype, asked if the city would be in contempt of court by delaying. “There’s a court order - it’s a mandate. You can appeal to the 1st District Court of Appeals. Otherwise we have to follow the court’s order,” said Hunter. “The order says to remove Charles Willis. I’m not going to be in contempt of court. This is a mandate and must be done,” said Holton.
Willis spoke: “This seemed like entrapment, seemed like the judge had already decided,” Willis said about the judge’s order. Madison suggested giving Morris instructions to go forward with an emergency hearing request and appeal of the order. “It will cost at least $4,500 to go to the District Court of Appeals, said Jerrod Holton. Based on the evidence, he does not live in his district,” he added. “If we’ve got to do this for Charles Willis, we also need to do it for Charlie Smith,” said Delores Madison. A second attorney working with Hunter said any appeal could only be based on listing those who were not served properly. “That’s your only issue,” said Attorney Black. Attorney Hunter told the board repeatedly that he was against the appellate action. “Any council member charged with forfeiture of their seat must be given a public hearing and it must be publicized in a local paper,” said Hunter. No public hearing has been held, but the judge’s ruling is final without an appeal.
An emergency motion for civil contempt/enforcement was filed On April 22 by Samuel Stevens, Willis’ opponent for the District 4 seat. The contempt motion will be heard Thursday at 2:30 p.m. at the Gadsden County Court