Naramore files suit against city officials
by Daniel Gaddy
Aug 01, 2012 | 3314 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Donnie Naramore
Donnie Naramore
Jasper mayoral candidate Donnie Naramore recently filed a federal lawsuit against members of the city council and Mayor Sonny Posey. The legal action is the latest in a two-week-long dispute about Naramore’s residency and whether it disqualifies him as a candidate.

On Tuesday, just a day after the suit was filed, a third-party election official ruled that Naramore’s name should not be placed on the ballot.

During a called meeting on July 27, the council voted to appoint Jasper attorney Steve Thomas to make the ruling after Posey disqualified himself from the decision due to a conflict of interest (Posey is running for re-election).

The council made the decision at the suggestion of city attorney Phillip Laird, who cited a 2008 Alabama Attorney General’s opinion advising such an action.

The Eagle’s efforts to reach City of Jasper attorneys for a comment were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Naramore’s attorney, Nathan Brock, said the city council does not have the authority to make such a decision.

“There is no provision in Alabama law for such a thing, and in fact, it is expressly prohibited,” Brock said in a statement.

Tracy Roberts, the deputy general counsel for the League of Municipalities, also recommended the action suggested by Laird, saying in cases such as this, the mayor must step aside and the council must appoint someone to handle the election and ballot decisions. According to Roberts, this election official can leave a person off the ballot if they have not been a city resident for at least 90 days before the election or if they were not a registered voter at the time of qualification.

The debate over Naramore’s candidacy concerns the residence he listed in his application for the mayoral race. Naramore’s home, which is on Brakefield Dairy Road, is not incorporated into Jasper’s city limits despite being surrounded by property annexed into the municipality.

During previous council meetings, Naramore stated that he was assured by City Clerk Kathy Chambless that his residency would not be an issue for his qualification. Chambless, however, said she believes the conversation concerned Naramore’s voting status with the Walker County Board of Registrars, not his candidacy.

Naramore’s suit, filed in U.S. District Court, requests a federal judge to issue a ruling to keep Naramore on the ballot and to state that the only method to challenge his candidacy should be through the court system. The suit also requests the judge to prevent the city council, the mayor and Thomas from disqualifying Naramore as a voter or candidate in Jasper.

The court challenge excludes council member Johnny Rollins, who is also a mayoral candidate, because he has abstained from all council votes regarding Naramore’s candidacy. The other members of the council, Posey, Chambless and Thomas are all named in the suit, both in their official capacity with the city and as individuals separate from their duties.

The suit also seeks compensation for Naramore’s legal fees in challenging the council’s decisions.

In a statement sent to the Eagle, Naramore said he is flattered by all the attention his candidacy has received.

“Let me say that I am so very sorry that it has come to this. The idea that the council, the mayor, and Mr. Thomas, would go into something like this, expending city funds, using city resources, when, based upon all the legal advice I can get, it is clear that they have no legal right to do what they are doing, is just a perfect example of what it wrong with the way Jasper is being run, and even as it makes me sad to see it, it makes me all the more determined to see this race through,” Naramore said in a statement. “I do not intend to sit idly by and allow a select few to determine who they want to have run for mayor, and to watch them abuse the system and the people of this city while they do it.”

Eagle Reporter Rachel Davis contributed to this report.