A judge has ordered a mandatory mediation to help settle the lawsuit filed by Mayor Sandy Stimpson against the Mobile City Council.
This means a third party appointed by the Judge Michael Youngpeter, who ruled over the case, will intervene and help the parties come up with a solution.
According to court documents released late this afternoon, after the hearing, Michael Upchurch will serve as the mediator. We've learned that Upchurch has been solving disputes as a mediator for more than 2 decades.
The lawsuit stems from an ongoing battle between the mayor and city council about re-hiring Marion Steinfels, the city council's spokesperson.
Both sides made their arguments heard today, but no decision was handed down. Judge Michael Youngpeter says coming into things he planned to make a ruling today but now needs more time to look at the details.
"I think that we are at the very first leg of what might be a long race. We're happy to have our contracted employee back with us. She'll be in place on Tuesday," said City Council Vice-President Councilman Levon Manzie.
Today's arguments from both parties went beyond the discussion about Steinfels. The city's attorneys says the council doesn't have the power to hire, but the defense says the city council has every right to do so.
"These are just simple questions that I think both parties are seeking a resolution too. Its been framed as adversarial in some cases but I it really isn't. I think you're seeing both sides seeking clarity there to understand the proper authority under the law," said George Talbot, Director of Communications for the City of Mobile.
The council's attorney also alleged the mayor signed contracts adding up to about 4 million dollars without approval from the council. The basis of it all is really about the separation of powers.
"Without specific arguments into each of the cases, we simply want to argue the law and have a judicial body determine what it is that the law has intended and how we are going to follow the law in the future," said Councilman John Williams.
As for Marion Steinfels, Judge Youngpeter says she can continue working for now. She signed a contract but the risk is that she may not be paid for her services. City Council members tell us she's fully aware of the risk.