PAINT ROCK, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama mayor has backed down from an attempt to bar the media and out-of-towners from attending council meetings in her tiny, rural town.
Paint Rock Mayor Brenda Fisk told WAAY-TV she issued the ban earlier this year without knowing it would violate the law. Members never voted on the rules, written as a two-page memo on town letterhead, she said.
Fisk said she wanted to avoid Town Council meetings becoming a “circus” like they did a few years ago during a controversy over police in the town of 200, which is located about 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of Huntsville.
“It’s on me. I did it all. Nobody has approved anything. It is not policy. It will not be policy and we do not stand at the door and tell you you can, or cannot, enter. Everybody’s welcome,” Fisk said.
Fisk previously defended the ban to an area newspaper, the Jackson County Sentinel. “What goes on in Paint Rock is the business of the people who live in Paint Rock,” she told the paper.
Fisk relented after the newspaper published an editorial about the rule, which was in apparent conflict with the Alabama Open Meetings Act. Fisk said she made her initial comments to the newspaper believing a phone call from a reporter was a scam.
Members of the media and others were allowed to attend a council meeting on Tuesday night. A video of the meeting posted on YouTube by an area resident showed Fisk responding to audience members’ questions about her actions.
“Excuse me. I’m talking,” Fisk said loudly at one point, holding up a hand and pointing a finger in an attempt to silence others. She later said she had “personal reasons” for wanting to restrict meeting attendance.
Johnathon Counts, a lifelong resident of Paint Rock who has known Fisk for years, said he doubted Fisk was trying to do anything shady by blocking the media and others from meetings.
“She has a very good head on her shoulders,” said Counts.