The town of Paint Rock, Alabama held a regularly scheduled town council meeting on Tuesday evening, June 26. This was the town’s second council meeting since reports surfaced of proposed meeting guidelines that attempted to shut out the press and non-residents.
At this meeting, attorney Stephen Kennamer took a seat at the table with council members at Paint Rock Town Hall. Kennamer specializes in municipal law, and also currently represents the city of Scottsboro.
The small community of approximately 200 garnered state and national attention in early June when the Sentinel reported that proposed meeting guidelines for the town would restrict visitors not residing or owning property in the town limits as well as news media from attendance, barring prior approval by a majority of the council.
At the town’s meeting on Tuesday, June 12, Mayor Brenda Fisk explained that the guidelines were presented for consideration to the council, but never passed or enacted.
“This is something the council had not voted on, has not voted on today, and will not vote on in the future,” she said. “We want to continue with the code of conduct that we are under, those items are not part of a process or our government.”
Fisk said she had proposed the guidelines in January, as a result of the media frenzy that ensued when Paint Rock moved to shutter their small Police Department in 2013 under then-mayor Jane Nevels.
Tuesday’s meeting involved discussion around code enforcement, and violations of city ordinances as it pertains to property upkeep. Much of the discussion was held informally, outside the parameters of the Roberts Rules of Order which are standard agenda and operating procedures for municipalities.
As the meeting drew to a close, Kennamer asked for an opportunity to address the mayor and council.
“May I address you and the council now?” he asked as Mayor Fisk was about to set the date for the council’s next meeting.
“The town has gotten a little bit of a black eye recently,” said Kennamer. “The town needs to think about establishing a couple of guidelines. One of them is to come up with a master ordinance establishing procedures for meetings.”
Kennamer also suggested an audit of the city’s financial records.
“Me, anytime I hear of something new or start something new, I want an audit,” he said. “There is a way to get one from the State Board of Examiners. I think that might be a good place to start… We need to try to have all of our records and all of our ordinances lined up. That’s the place to start.”
Kennamer went on to describe procedural requirements for cities and towns of different sizes in the state of Alabama. He explained that the public and the media are entitled to be at meetings of the town’s leadership, and further discussed the responsibility of the presiding officer to keep order during the meeting.
“Transparency is a good thing in government,” he said.
Paint Rock’s town council meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, beginning at 6 p.m. at Paint Rock Town Hall.