By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY— Three Northport City Council members engineered the resignation of the City Administrator in April, to create a job opening for Representative Alan Harper; this according to the Mayor and others at City Hall.
Mayor Bobby Herndon told the Alabama Political Reporter that council members Jay Logan, Bart Harper and Rodney Sullivan met privately outside of the presence of the Council, where they decided to eliminate City Administrator, Scott Collins, and give the job to Rep. Alan Harper (R-Northport). Bart Harper is Alan Harper’s brother.
Mayor Herndon said, “Over the course of time, Scott made some people mad because he is all business, and he wasn’t part of the pretty much standard Northport good-old-boy network. So there are some people that wanted to see him go because they couldn’t run the city.”
Collins confirmed to APR that the three councilmen approached him and eventually agreed to pay him a years salary plus benefits if he would resign immediately, without the advice or consent of the Mayor or other council members.
“So, on Tuesday [April 12], I get calls from different people around town that Jay Logan, council president, is going around Tuscaloosa and Northport saying, ‘We are going to fire Scott on Friday.’ Just bragging about it,” said Herndon.
An email from Northport City Attorney, Ronald L. Davis, dated April 15, 2016, to the City’s Benefits Administrator, Carrie Cameron, deals with the payments to be made to Collins, and who gave the orders to write the checks. The email reads, “Per my instructions by three City Council members, please cut the three checks to Scott Collins we discussed this morning… For his salary for one year, April 15, 2016 to April 15, 2017, to be paid in one lump sum today.” On that same day, Cameron produced three checks totaling $131,241 to Collins signed by Council President Logan and Collins.
City Attorney Davis declined to reveal the names of the three council members, citing attorney/client privilege. However, Collins and Herndon say it was Logan, Harper and Sullivan. Logan, Harper and Sullivan were copied on the email to the benefits manager, but council members Judy Hayes and Bert Simms were not; neither was Mayor Herndon.
In a phone interview with Hayes, she stated the actions taken by the trio Logan, Harper and Sullivan, violated the open meetings act. Mayor Herndon and Scott Collins stated the same. “They violated the Open Meetings Act and announced Alan Harper as city administrator…without a meeting or anything else,” said Collins. “[They] went to all the department heads and introduced Alan as the new incoming city administrator.”
The introduction of Harper as new city administrator was confirmed by several sources at City Hall, as well as Mayor Herndon. “On Friday, they called a meeting, the group of three, and all of the department heads and introduce Alan Harper as the interim city administrator,” said Herndon. The City Council held a meeting on Monday April 18, the next business day after Collins’ payment and departure, at which the Council voted to accept a resolution to pay Collins, according to the Council minutes, with Councilwoman Judy Hayes in dissent.
However, Harper was not named as city administer rather the Council voted to approve Charles Swann, as acting city administrator, but that was not all: He was also named Acting Appointing Authority, City Clerk and City Treasurer. Herndon believes that backed away from hiring Harper because, “over the weekend, they got a whiff that Bobby Herndon was going to raise Cain.”
“So at the Council meeting, at the pre-meeting, I hear them talking,” said Herndon, “And we get to the Council meeting and they appoint Charles Swann, who was City Administrator many years ago, back to City Administrator, He is a city engineer.” According to Herndon, “On Tuesday, Charles [Swann] writes Alan Harper a letter appointing him his assistant city administrator…and they are cousins.”
All members of the Northport City Council were contacted (Judy Hayes, Jay Logan, Rodney Sullivan, Bert Sims and Bart Harper), only Councilwoman Judy Hayes responded.