One new Midway council member elected in the city’s April 30th election and two others were sworn into office at Midway’s monthly council meeting on May 2nd, held just days after a hotly-contested election.
Newly-elected Eria Caesar widely beat out Ella Barber by over 60 votes for the seat Barber had held for some dozen years. David Knight was re-elected automatically because he had no opposition.
Charles “Chuck” Willis’ seat remains in question awaiting a judge’s ruling.
On April 22nd, 2nd Judicial Circuit Court Judge Jim Shelfer ordered Willis’ name be taken off the ballot for the April 30th election based on ‘testimony and overwhelming evidence’ in an earlier hearing that Willis did not live in his district and had not lived there since at least 2009. Willis was opposed in the election by Samuel “Sam” Stevens, who trailed Willis in the voting by 13 votes with a re-count pending.
The judge’s order was stayed because the City of Midway appealed Judge Shelfer’s ruling to the 1st District Court of Appeals (DCA). That body kept the stay in place and returned the case back to Judge Shelfer to address. Judge Shelfer has denied an emergency hearing in the case, say attorneys in the case, and the parties at this writing are awaiting further action.
At the May 2nd meeting, soon after being sworn into office, Willis’ name was offered for the mayoral seat, as were those of Delores Madison and Jerrod Holton. When the dust settled, Holton was elected mayor and Knight mayor pro-tem.
“Congratulations to those who were elected. I look forward to working with you for Midway and will try to represent the city and residents I serve well,” said Holton.
Holton had faced some opposition to his retaining to his seat at an earlier special meeting in which, after a discussion about what to do about the judge’s ruling ordering Willis off the ballot, members decided to disregard the order and appeal his ruling to the DCA.
Holton said at that time that the city and any members who ignored the judge’s ruling would face contempt charges. City attorney Henry Hunter then advised them that they would be held in direct contempt.
Then-mayor Ella Barber conducted a hearing regarding Holton’s attendance record. Barber said she had not approved any of his absences so they were unexcused. Holton stated he had called in to the office or to Ms. Barber every time he was going to be absent.
Then-mayor pro tem Chuck Willis made a motion to remove Holton from his seat for unexcused absences and it was seconded by Allean Robinson and approved in a 4-3 vote. Because any action taken at a special meeting requires confirmation at the next regular meeting, once Holton was voted as mayor at the May 2nd meeting, the council quickly voted him an active member. The board then voted 4-3 to stop the appeal at the DCA.
After a discussion about then-former city manager Auburn Ford, who had been terminated by Midway earlier this year, the board voted to re-hire Ford with back pay to the point of termination. “He was wrongfully terminated. To avoid further financial damages, we should reinstate him immediately,” said Mayor Holton.