The legality of the controversial petition to change Dothan's form of government, will now be put to the test, by Alabama Attorney General Troy King. City officials are taking the matter to King, because they say the petition may not legally bind them to do what those who sign it want.
The legal issues stem from some of the wording in the petition. City officials want a legal opinion about what to do next, whether it be to call for a vote on changing the government or disregard the petition.
“I want to make it clear that I want the people to vote, but I want to do it legally... in no other shape or form or no less," said City Commissioner, Phillip Tidwell.
The doubts about the legality of this petition stem from a section of the Alabama code cited in the document that pertains to cities with five member governing boards; Dothan has seven.
“The petition asked the city to call for an election that will only be effective if the legislature changes the law," said City Attorney, Len White.
City leaders say a vote to change the city's form of government cannot be contingent on the state legislature’s involvement, because the city does not control the actions of Alabama's state lawmakers.
Kenneth Everrett, the man responsible for the petition drive, maintains that the petition reflects the opinions of Dothan's citizens, and that city leaders should put the current form of government up for a vote.
“You can propose the question to the people... You can set a date and pose the question, let the people debate both sides and let the people vote," said Everrett.
So far 923 of the over six-thousand signatures collected have been checked, and 706 have been validated. And while city officials continue to verify each signature, they still say that a vote will only be held if the petition requesting that vote is legal.
The process of validating every petition signature is expected to be complete in the next 30 days. Mr. Everett chose not to comment to news four about what he would do next, if general king ruled his petition drive not legal.
City Attorney Len White says he expects the attorney general to rule on the legality of the petition within the next 30 days.