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Explosive New Details Surrounding Northport City Council (Part 1): MEMES & NDAs

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NORTHPORT, AL

As Northport residents continue to band together, embarrassed and appalled by the shenanigans of Northport’s City Council, many are beginning to feel like Northport is being taken over by outsiders at the expense of the citizens that live within Northport. It is blatantly and painfully obvious that City Council doesn’t care to consider the views and concerns of the taxpaying citizens and residents, as meme’s emerge chastising the City Council with phrases like, “Salt Life 82W”, “NWA”, “no neighborhood is safe”, and the “hogg squad” in blatant mockery of the decisions made by city council. Here are a few examples:

     

        

With this massive gamble of taxpayer money, many are wondering what were city officials thinking!!! Between the news of Alabama considering a gambling bill and the Boozy Spirits podcast that talks about alcoholic beverages that the President of City Council has chosen to be interviewed on, citizens are growing concerned about the reputation that this city council is creating for the City of Northport and whether or not there are larger plans in place to make Northport into an unrecognizable town from what it is today.

Add to this the checkered past regarding both the actions of this council and the actions of the developer selected, many feel that Northport is being used as a cookie jar to draw down funds for out-of-state developers to unscrupulously profit. All of this while rumors swirl of tax-payer funded trips to water parks and connections being made through a friend of a friend who lived a couple of houses down. After all, it was the council president, (who indicated at the council meeting that he, himself, has taken trips to waterparks as part of the committee he is on), that also stated voters will forget in a couple of years and that its the developers that fund campaigns. His exact words were,

“And lastly, follow the money. These individuals don’t donate to anyone’s campaign or hold signs. But guess who does? Developers and Builders! They are the ones with disposable money. If you received any PAC donations in the past, this is typically Developers and Builders. They all work together. And trust me, they will work just as hard getting you out of office than any neighborhood will.”

Interestingly, following the money with this developer will take you down some interesting past legal cases and this isn’t the first city council he has worked with. More on that later.

The president of this council also indicated that voters will forget before the next election, but that doesn’t seem to be happening when situation after situation enrages citizens. Hardened opinions are being expanded almost daily and not in a way that is at all favorable to anyone on this city council, with some members of the community issuing a guarantee that all of these elected officials will be removed from holding office by the time of the next election. The political anger is spilling over from community to community, neighborhood to neighborhood, home to home, and the surrounding towns are taking note and watching the embarrassment that is the Northport City Council.

The lone council member that tries to stand with the people only seems to be bullied by attempts to control her and made to be the target in ways that are mean-spirited, very similar to how the president of the council belittles the public. Even recently he chastised concerned community members by calling them “tear-wipers” as he markets out of town developers and cheerleads for them in the face of the very electors who stand in incredibly strong opposition to the Sapphire Bay 2.0 fiasco, now known as University Beach, where concerts will host up to 2000 people up until midnight right beside a neighborhood trying to rest before rising early to go to work. The location for this is absolutely horrendous.

When pressed on the imprudent location being a settling location following a boondoggle purchase in the area of Rose Boulevard, (after the cost to grade it became prohibitive to put in a waterpark), the crowd was absolutely astonished at the city council meeting when the president of the council inferred that it was the media that reported the purchase was not originally for the waterpark. Citizens in attendance gasped as the citizens of Northport knew all too well that the original intent was to put the water park in the area of Rose Boulevard. The reaction of the crowd strongly indicated that the president of the council issued what many considered to be a bold-faced lie, a lie told to 150-200 citizens at the council meeting and to the 300+ watching online.

This potential lie wasn’t the apex of deception, disdain, and disrespect on the night towards the pubic, though. No, not even close. That award goes to the fact that members of council and numerous employees of The City of Northport signed an unenforceable Non-Disclosure Agreement effectively silencing public employees and members of the council, preventing and violating freedom of speech rights and, as a result, freedom of the press rights while also violating the public trust and issuing a slap in the face towards transparency in government, especially after Governor Kay Ivey issued Executive Order 734 titled “Promoting Transparency in State Government Through Enhanced Accessibility to Public Records”. Municipalities are local governments, though, some may say.

Municipalities are designated by state law, and are creations of state law (or “designated and empowered by the State of Alabama constitution”). The powers granted to these municipalities, or local governments, are still derived from the authority and power of the state. As a result, municipalities in Alabama are inherently local divisions operating by the state’s authority.

According to Alabar.org,

“The Constitution of Alabama does not recognize any inherent right of local government. The legislature of Alabama is vested with complete authority over what municipalities can and cannot do. In general, municipalities are delegated a portion of the sovereign powers of the state for the welfare and protection of their inhabitants and the general public within their jurisdictional areas. The sources of municipal power include the Alabama Constitution, the Code of Alabama, and special acts of the legislature.”

As a result of this understanding, one would expect these local municipalities (which are part of the State of Alabama, and whereas the sources of power include the Alabama Constitution, the Code of Alabama, and special acts of the legislature, essentially the same sources that grant the Governor the power to issue executive orders), to abide by the spirit of Executive Order 734 and promote transparency through enhanced accessibility to public records since they are part of the State of Alabama. However, The City of Northport, AL, willfully neglected, disregarded, and disobeyed Executive Order 734 by having city officials and employees sign unenforceable non-disclosure statements that prevented the public being governed access to information that now infringes upon the welfare and protection of Northport inhabitants.

The signing of Non-Disclosure Agreements by City Council members and employees of the city is an enormous issue since this entire deal was basically sequestered from the public’s knowledge and then the NDAs only expired on the very night that the city voted to suspend the rules and ram it through City Council while involving millions of dollars with a developer that has been part of multiple court cases and litigation. This literally exemplified the least transparent a local government could be.

As concerned Northport residents showed up en masse to the city council meeting, there where hundreds more watching online. An overwhelming majority stood in opposition and vocally opposed the actions of Northport’s City Council, to include surveying the room for raised hands indicating they had deep concerns and where not in favor of the bait and switch tactics and plans being presented, once again circumventing the prescribed process. The concern grew when the council took actions that robbed the citizens of due diligence as approval was granted without being permitted the due diligence of  a 1st and 2nd reading.

This was the result of rules being suspended, and where concerns exist that part of the land acquired may not have been acquired legally since records of the city acquiring the land has been hard to find and there being indications that the land may have been purchased through executive session to prevent local landowner(s) from having a proper understanding of the true nature and value of their land, an act that could be seen as deceiving the public while not following expected city council procedures and due diligence, which this council seems to have a major issue with. Remember, this is the same council where there are conflicting affidavits regarding residency of one council member, an unethical maneuver of the president of the council to circumvent the prescribed process when a mayor resigns in order to retain the power of council president. The local code and ordinance states that the council president “shall” become mayor in the case of a mayor’s resignation, which is written not as an option but as a declaration, an prescribed order and process.

Northport, though, seems to enjoy circumventing the rules, like having excessive executive sessions, rumors of discussing votes prior to council meetings, potential serial meetings while advising other elected members of council to vote with the developers and builders because they “fund campaigns”. There reportedly also exists an internal dynamic described as simply “evil” inside of city hall where intimidation tactics are full throttle. This is extremely concerning as it not only mutes the will of the people by pressure existing within council that negates the desired freedom to vote one’s conscious in support of the people, but it is a second layer of invalidation of the NDA enforceability since you now have duress on top of the prevailing importance of public interest. And the targeted bullying does not only occur within council, but can also be seen through the evidence of a concerted group that mocks the concerned public and may even be connected to Real Estate or developers seeking to benefit from this council.

The result of this bullying by council members, such as the president of Northport’s City Council members referring to concerned citizens as “tear wipers” further indicates that the fix was already in and the votes were already known and discussed before hand since the president’s comment on social media indicated the votes were already known, revealing a violation of Alabama’s Sunshine Law, which states, “all meetings of government bodies are open to the public, exempting executive sessions”. The law further defines a meeting as any gathering, whether prearranged or not, at which a quorom is present and will be deliberating public policy and the use of public funds. This means that these NDAs which the signing of them itself constitute serial meetings violates Alabama’s Sunshine Law, since serial meetings by definition are “meetings that occur when a majority of members of a governing body have a series of smaller gatherings or communications that results in a majority of the body collectively taking action even if a majority is never part of any one communication.” In other words, since these NDAs are agreements to not talk about a deal involving taxpayer money and resources, and they are signed, (as members of council, city employees, and the developer have already acknowledge their existence), the City of Northport has either directly violated the Alabama Sunshine Law by having what should have been a public meeting privately, or had a series of meetings and communications to sign the NDAs that effectively hid public information and converted it to private in violation of the Alabama Sunshine Law. 

Furthermore, the context of what the president of the council indicated on his social media post indicates that the fix was already in, and the votes were already known, indicating that there had already been some discussion, or communication of some sort, as a foundation of the confidence of the indications exhibited, indicating either non-pubilc meetings occurring or serial meetings where votes were pre-tabulated and already known.

Community involvement is now spiking as community after community has been affected by the arrogant and unbecoming nature of this council and its leadership resulting in a social media warzone that only makes the lovely city of Northport embarrassed by the leadership representing it. The citizens of Northport love the city, want to protect, respect, and honor its communities as safe places to raise families with wonderful neighbors where its okay to not agree because people still see one another as people, but also one that despises the appearance of corruption and the total inconsideration for the welfare of the people that are supposed to be governing it with the trust of the people in its districts.

What is actually happening, though, is this City Council has single-handedly made the phrase “developers and builders” toxic within the city, and many of the developers in Northport do good work and are good people when you get to know them, but the president of the council seems hellbent on polarizing the citizens against the developers (whether local or out-of-town), due to the actions and belligerence towards the very citizens that this council is entrusted to protect, serve, and govern with the best interests of its communities at its heart. There are also already reports of people insured pulling their policies and switching large accounts in boycott of the president of the council and the manner in which this council is being governed. Political bridges are being blown apart instead built throughout the city, from one community to the next. The question has to be asked as a result of what is happening on the ground, “has this amount of social and political capital ever been expended in such a localized political atmosphere?” People all over the State of Alabama are now paying attention to the embarrassment that is Northport City Council, which includes a member appointed by Governor Ivey, herself.

How you ask? Well, take time to remember that this is the same dysfunctional council that couldn’t agree on who to appoint to a open seat and Governor Ivey had to select the council member. Now that council member is signing NDAs that are a slap in the face to the spirit of her Executive Order. How considerate and grateful!

During this process there was also a group of names that the Northport City Administrator sent to Montgomery. One of those reported names happens to also be the same name that has also ended up in a Netflix documentary, and on a website of a mister Donald V. Watkins. As a result, groups of women concerned about the governing of Northport from an entirely different angle, mostly mothers and young adults, have been discussing forming a PAC in Rondini’s memory or finding a way to band together and get involved, to absolutely ensure that no one, absolutely no one, connected to the high profile case ever comes close to assuming public office in Northport, Alabama; even if the president of the council was the one pushing his name forward to Montgomery.

As one could imagine, distrust of Northport’s City Council has been meteoric in its rise among the population that live and call Northport home, but many feel that there beloved town is being taken hostage, in a sort of political hostile takeover of the city and in a way that disparages the actual residents, citizens, and taxpayers of Northport. Without a powerful legislative mechanism, this local power to govern seems unchecked and the State of Alabama seems to be in need of meaningful and powerful legislative action to return the power to the people. Just look at the last council meeting as an  example. The president of the council was basically the world’s largest cheerleader for an out of town developer with a history of lawsuits in Texas to come in and sell ocean front property in Northport, Alabama. Before long, we may even be looking at a vision for a Las Vegas style strip in Northport, Alabama, especially after rumors of people involved with the Northport waterpark deal having already visited Montgomery as the State of Alabama is negotiating a bill for lottery, casinos, and sports betting, which at the time of this writing is short of votes in the Alabama Senate, but with indications that there may be enough support for it to eventually pass. In light of this, one has to ask, where is this $350 million investment coming from? Is this an outsiders vision where the citizens of Northport are simply disregarded but out location is taken hostage? If not, it sure is feeling that way, and that is making A LOT of people MAD AS HELL.

Most of all, there simply seems to be a lack of transparency, due diligence, and financial wisdom. When summarizing, no one is ensuring that the presented numbers make sense and add up. There are no signed contracts from investors that the citizens of Northport have been made aware of. The public is being intentionally left in the dark without access to records because NDAs have been keeping the records from even being known to exist or to be asked for, which, as mentioned, violates Kay Ivey’s Executive Order 734 because instead of having enhanced access to records, the records have been hidden by restraining public officials who’s duty it is to take care of the public from even informing the public about what it is happening in their own backyard. On top of this, Northport suspends the rules and rams it down the public’s throat before they have time to blink and comprehend what the City of Northport’s government is doing. In the process it is violating, as previously mentioned, Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press, and with a vote from a council member with conflicting affidavits about his residency which potentially deems him as illegally holding office and illegally voting, but a judge has to make that determination and a case has to be brought before the judge before anything will be done about it.

The district attorney has already been made aware of the conflicting affidavits, as well as Alabama’s Secretary of State’s office. The City of Northport has already been made aware of it and it has been “turned over to the legal team” to not do anything which now creates an inherent conflict as the legal team of the City’s client is the city. The top of the city are the voters. Therefore, the primary client for the city attorney and legal team is the voting populace. City officials are part of the city, as well, They are entitled to legal assistance, as well, but a lawyer’s oath is to the law itself. If a lawyer knowingly is protecting and concealing the illegality of a council member or has assisted another in circumventing its own prescribed code and orderly process enshrined in city ordinance, then that may be grounds and reasons to initiate ethics complaints to the Alabama Bar Association and to the Alabama Ethics Commission.

The City of Northport, itself, has been provided a copy of the conflicting affidavits with conflicting residency declarations, which should prevent the official from continuing to hold office, with nothing being done but allow the council member to continue to vote. The silver lining in this? This council member voted in support of the $350 million boondoggle covered in snake oil which may give rise to a legal cause of action if a voting party is deemed to have illegally voted due to illegally holding office in the matter since the vote allowed a suspension of the rules which subsequently allowed the measure to pass without a second reading. If one of the votes is invalidated then it is not a full unanimous council, but again, this needs to be brought before a judge for a ruling to be made.

And as far as the President of Northport’s City Council goes, there is a lot more that currently is being sat on.



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