City to seek AG’s opinion on police chief’s position
by Ron Harris
Jun 18, 2014 | 3291 views | 0 0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Chief Connie Cooner Rowe
Chief Connie Cooner Rowe
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Jasper City Council members agreed Tuesday morning to seek an opinion from the state Attorney General’s office regarding whether Connie Cooner Rowe can remain as the city’s police chief while also serving as the District 13 representative in the Alabama House of Representatives.

Rowe was elected June 3 to the seat currently held by state Rep. Bill Roberts. She will be sworn into office following the Nov. 3 general election.

“I think it’s an important enough question that it merits this,” city attorney Russ Robertson said during the city council meeting Tuesday morning.

Mayor Sonny Posey said after the meeting that the decision to seek the opinion from Attorney General Luther Strange is necessary to make sure the city abides by the law regarding public officials holding more than one office.

“When the issue came up, we knew we would have to get an attorney general’s opinion because we were aware of two things — a new law that takes effect in October that they refer to as the ‘double-dipping’ law and a law that is referred to as someone having ‘two jobs of profit,’” Posey said. “We just want to be sure that we’re not guilty of doing anything that would create problems not only for the city, but also for Connie. It could put her in between a rock and a hard place real quick, and we don’t want anything to jump up and surprise anybody.”

Rowe said she was thankful for the council’s desire to make sure that everything is handled correctly and by the law.

“I’m flattered by the mayor and council’s desire to continue to allow me to work here,” Rowe said following the meeting. “But I’m very interested in the attorney general’s opinion as to whether or not it would be allowable under the new ethics laws for the state. Really, I’m not going to concentrate on making a decision about whether to stay or to go until the opinion comes back. His opinion may very well answer that question for all of us.”

Once that opinion is returned, Rowe said she would decide what course to take. “If it were to say that I could do both, I’d want to sit down and talk to the mayor and the council,” Rowe said. “I love my job and serving the city of Jasper as police chief, but it is a full-time job and requires a great deal of concentration and focus.”

Either way, Rowe said she’s excited about representing Jasper and Walker County in the state legislature. “I look forward to going to Montgomery and serving in the House of Representatives,” she said.

If Rowe steps down, the council will immediately begin steps to hire a new police chief.

“I know you will do a good job in whatever position you’re in,” council president Danny Gambrell told Rowe.

Posey said he’s hopeful Rowe can remain in place as the city’s police chief. “It’s tough on me, because I don’t want to change police chiefs,” Posey said. “Connie has done a great job.”

In other business, council members:

•recognized Leon O’Rear, who addressed the council regarding several personal issues with the city and concerns he has over a piece of property on Third Avenue.

•approved a permit for a Land Shark 5K run sponsored by the Jasper Swim Team on June 28 beginning at 8 a.m. The event has been held the three previous years.

•approved a parade permit for a Zombie Fun Run on Sunday, July 13, in downtown Jasper. The event, which is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m., is being coordinated by Tina Teeter and is in conjunction with a zombie-inspired movie called “Thr33 Days Dead” that’s been filming throughout the county.

“Our whole goal is to bring attention to downtown Jasper. It’s beautiful here,” Teeter told the council.

Tuesday’s council meeting was filmed by camera crews from True Entertainment and the Syfy network for a special docu-drama about the movie and its struggles to film in and around Walker County.

•heard from Kristan Stricklin and Babs Andrews from Hope for Women concerning a request to hold a Festival of Lights in December.

“The community has been gracious to Hope for Women, and we just want to do something to give back to the community,” Andrews told the council.

•approved budget amendments concerning the general fund budget and financing the purchase of a new fire truck for the city’s fire department.

•heard a report from city purchasing agent Derleda Abrom concerning the purchase of dual wall polyethlylene pipe and corrugated metal pipe. Just one bid was received for the polyethylene pipe, and Abrom suggested rejecting the bid to negotiate for a better price. No bids were received for the corrugated pipe.

•approved $2,400 in emergency funding to pay for overtime for employees of the city’s parks and recreation department for an upcoming baseball tournament.

•approved a previously introduced request for funding to purchase a lawn mower for the city’s cemetery department. The mower will cost approximately $8,250.

•adopted a resolution to include several parcels of property that fall under the city’s nuisance abatement ordinance. Most of the properties fall under the ordinance because of excessive weeds and unsafe structures.

•adopted a resolution to rezone two parcels of property located at 2404 and 2406 7th Avenue. The properties were rezoned from B-1C (neighborhood business conditional) to R-3 (affordable housing) in order to build a home or place a mobile home on the property.

•heard again from Teeter, who asked the council’s permission to block off several streets for filming scenes for “Thr33 Days Dead.” The scenes will be filmed on June 26 and include several stunts that involve people being thrown from upper-floor windows on the downtown square. “We can’t make a horror movie without a little blood and guts,” Teeter said, adding that all safety issues will be addressed.

The council agreed to the request.

•agreed to Posey’s request to postpone the next council meeting from July 1 to July 8.