AG Opinion on Dothan Petition: Not Legal

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The Dothan City Commission has been waiting for months to hear back from the attorney general on whether a petition to change the form of government is legal.

Commissioners have the answer.

The attorney general has handed down his opinion on the issue and it looks like there will not be an election any time soon to change Dothan’s form of government.

The problem with the petition drive apparently comes from part of the state code that expired almost 20 years ago.

It’s a controversy that's been looming over the city of Dothan for months.

It started last year, when former Mayor Kenneth Everett collected thousands of signatures and proposed the city change to a strong mayor-council form of government and get rid of the city manager position.

However, the commission challenged the legality of the petition, and sent a request to the attorney general asking for his opinion.

Dothan Mayor Pat Thomas says, "With the petition, we had two tasks, one to verify the votes, we did that. And two, to verify that it was legal, we did that."

In his written opinion, the attorney general, "States any proposal for a change in Dothan’s form of government must be one the city can legally adopt at the time the proposal is placed on the ballot."

And, because the petition drive was based on an Alabama code that expired nearly two decades ago, it can't move forward.

Dothan City Attorney Len White said, "The proposal was specific about the form of government it requested. The attorney general found that form of government expired in 1987 and was therefore no longer a legal option for the city. In other words, had the city put this on a ballot and had the proposal carried, the city would be without a form of government and unable to adopt a new one."

For the time being, Mayor Thomas says he's glad to finally put this matter to rest. "We're gonna’ move on and we're gonna’ continue to do the things that were sworn to do and that was to uphold the law and look after the interest of the city of Dothan."

Everett declined to go on camera, but he did say, “Never, did the petitioners call for an abandonment. We called for a vote, preceded by the debate on the two forms of government."

He says he's not sure how he will proceed, but he says he's not giving up.

Mayor Pat Thomas says no further action will be taken by the commission on this issue, if none is taken by Everett.

We're told that in order for the matter to come up for a vote in the future, the state legislature would have to pass a new law allowing that form of government in Dothan. Then, another petition drive using the correct code would have to be launched and enough signatures would have to be collected to call for an election.

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