Alexander v. City of BessemerAnnotate this Case
The City of Bessemer and Bessemer City Councillors Jimmy Stephens, Dorothy Davidson, Sarah W. Belcher, and Albert Soles sought a writ of mandamus to direct the Circuit Court to dismiss a claim alleging bad-faith failure to pay legal bills and costs stemming from a complaint filed by former City Councillor Louise Alexander and the law firm of White, Arnold & Dowd, P.C. ("WAD"). The City councillors also sought to have a racial-discrimination claim dismissed. The plaintiffs alleged that in 2006 and 2007 Alexander received three donations from a Tuscaloosa real-estate developer, which were properly used for charitable projects in her district. In this same period (according to the complaint), Davidson and Belcher, received similar donations from the same individual for charitable projects in their respective districts. According to the complaint, beginning in the early spring of 2007, plaintiff Alexander opposed several projects the donor had proposed to the City and, the donor "vowed to retaliate." The complaint alleged that because of the donor's complaint to the Attorney General, a five-count indictment against Alexander was filed in August 2008 alleging violations of the Alabama Ethics Law. The complaint asserted that similar charges were not brought against Davidson and Belcher. WAD represented Alexander during her criminal proceedings. Alexander was ultimately acquitted. Alexander and WAD alleged that the City had a "policy and practice" of paying legal fees for city officials charged with crimes relating to their official duties if and when they were found not guilty. Upon review, the Supreme Court granted the petition for mandamus relief as it related to the bad-faith claim against the City. The Court denied the petition with regard to plaintiffs' claim against the City councillors regarding the racial discrimination claim: the councilors did not demonstrate entitlement to legislative immunity, and whether they were entitled to qualified immunity was a question requiring further consideration of facts outside of the pleadings.