Alabama mayor, councilman fight at City Hall

AP News
|
Posted: Dec 15, 2015 10:23 PM
Alabama mayor, councilman fight at City Hall

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The mayor of Alabama's largest city got into a fight with a city councilman during a meeting Tuesday, sending both men to the hospital.

A video of the council meeting captures sounds of a man repeatedly shouting "No!" from outside the council chamber before the presiding member calls for a recess.

Members scurry past double doors decorated with Christmas wreaths toward the noise as the gavel slams down, and a perplexed look crosses the face of a man who was making a presentation.

After the dust settled, Mayor William Bell and Councilman Marcus Lundy both had minor injuries. The council meeting ended early. A man dressed up as Santa Claus sat slouched in a chair outside council chambers afterward while police lingered in the hallway.

A police report identifies Bell as the victim and says Lundy is accused of assault. Birmingham police spokesman Sean Edwards said in an email that a warrant had been issued for Lundy's arrest Tuesday night.

Bell and Lundy were in a room behind council chambers discussing a city matter and Lundy charged at Bell and started cursing at him while discussing a personal issue, the police report said.

According to the report, Bell told police he turned and tried leaving the room three times, but that Lundy closed the door each time before grabbing him by the neck from behind and putting him in a chokehold.

Two of Lundy's assistants came into the room to break up the scuffle but refused to give interviews with police until after they spoke with legal counsel, police said.

Bell suffered bruising on the right side of his neck and swelling in his left knee, the report said. Bell's spokeswoman April Odom said the mayor underwent a CT scan and an MRI after the fight. Council President Johnathan Austin showed photos of scrapes on the back of Lundy's left leg during a news conference.

A city council attorney told investigators Lundy would not immediately give police a statement. Austin said Lundy told him that he planned to file charges against Bell.

Odom said Lundy recently had to return the city vehicle he was driving because the law prohibits council members from having municipal vehicles. It's unclear whether that factored into the confrontation, she said. An audio recording from a committee meeting on Monday captured a terse exchange between city councilmembers and the mayor's chief of staff about the procedure that was used to retrieve the vehicle.

Austin said Lundy alleges Bell called his place of work trying to get him fired. Odom denied that. Austin also accused Bell of being unwilling to work with the council and said the confrontation was likely the culmination of the deteriorating relationship.

"This right here is ridiculous," Austin said. "We can overcome this and we can do better and we will strive to do better as a council."

Councilwoman Kim Rafferty said there have been ongoing power struggles between Bell, 66, and the council.

"Boys need to grow up and be men and do the job they were elected to do," she said. "They need to sit across the table and talk about conflict resolution."

Bell, a former council member, has been mayor since 2010. He briefly spoke at a law enforcement training session on active shooters that included a mention of workplace violence before the council meeting but missed a chamber of commerce luncheon afterward.

Lundy, elected in 2013, has worked as an executive with several companies. He is chairman of the council's Economic Development, Budget and Finance Committee.