Mayor Pro-Tem Terry Mason welcomed those in the above-average attendance. After five quick strikes of the gavel, Mason announced that he was elected by the council to serve as mayor pro-tem and fulfill the mayoral duties in the absence of the city’s current mayor — James “Pee Wee” Richardson, who was arrested on Sept. 19 and charged with multiple counts of sexual misconduct involving female inmates in the city jail.
District 2 council member Anthony Hammond blessed the meeting with a prayer, which was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. Within seconds of approving the minutes from the last council meeting, a council member made the motion to adjourn. After a second motion, all members agreed and Mason called the meeting to an abrupt end.
Mason told members of the media that there has “never been a shortage of having a mayor” in Carbon Hill and that he, along with the rest of the council, will take charge and remain in control of the city’s actions. According to Mason, there was no set agenda for the highly anticipated meeting and he and the council fulfilled their duties by having their two monthly meetings.
Several members of the community were noticeably upset at the lack of action taken during the night’s meeting. Tempers began to flare among the crowd but were quickly calmed once local police made an appearance.
“They’re mad because we didn’t have a pony and puppet show here. We’re not going to have pony and puppet shows. This is being handled by the State of Alabama,” Mason said. “I can’t tell you if he’s innocent; I can’t tell you if he’s guilty. It’s not up to me to do that, and these people in this room are not going to judge him either. But, until he is proven guilty in this United States of America, he is innocent.”
Community member Joann Garrison voiced her opinion about the city’s situation Thursday night. She also mentioned about the dangers she feels now living within the city.
“We came down for a meeting that the city council saw fit to cancel immediately because of the news media, and I think that we need to get out and let everyone know what’s going on in this city so we can get outside help ‘cause we don’t have inside help. We’ve got to have outside [help],” Garrison said. “I’ve been a life-time resident, but I don’t want to be anymore. It’s dangerous if I say anything to you, there’s no telling what could happen to me.”
District 1 councilwoman Sandra Garrison, who has been on the council for four years, stated, “We’ve got a small town here, and we want it to grow. We don’t need this harassment. I think we can get past this and move on.”
Mason was short with many who questioned him; however, he responded by saying the city will proceed with its business as usual.
“I am the mayor pro-tem, and I am in charge. And, we have not lost one day without a leader in this city, and we will not lose a day. We will continue business as is,” Mason said. “Everybody came to observe a spectacle, and I will not tolerate a spectacle. A man’s life is being judged here and they’re not equipped to judge him. I don’t have any information; I don’t have any proof of what he did or what he didn’t do. Nobody does except the State of Alabama. Let them judge him. But, until it is cleared up, I will be in charge as mayor.”