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Counties Verses Municipalities

Rickey Stokes

Viewed: 2645

Posted by: RStokes
Date: Jun 04 2019 10:34 AM


Based on the discussion of the Henry County Commission this morning, RSN wanted to explain the difference in county verses municipal government.

Counties are much more limited on power then municipalities are.

A municipality can pass a sales tax by the vote of the commission.

A county can not pass a sales tax without it going before the Alabama Legislature.

A municipality can pass local ordinances such as a leash law. A county can not without going through the Alabama Legislature. So when people complain the county does not address certain issues, the County does not have the authority where a Municipality does.

HOUSTON COUNTY  is easier to explain.

Houston County Courthouse – the members of the Houston County Commission only have authority over the crews that clean the building. The Houston County Commission has zero authority over anyone in the courthouse. WHY? All clerks work for the Circuit Clerk, an elected official, and are state employees or paid out of the Clerk funds. The District Attorney is elected and everyone who works for the District Attorney are state employees and work strictly at the will of the elected District Attorney. All Judges are elected and they select their Judicial Assistant and Court Reporter. The courthouse security is managed by the Sheriff Department and under the Sheriff. And the Sheriff can hire, fire and discipline at will and the commission has no authority over the “deputies”.

The clerical staff of the Sheriff Department do fall under the Houston County Personnel Board. The Sheriff has to follow certain county policies.

So in the Houston County Courthouse they control no one but the clean up crew.

ADMINISTRATIVE BUILDING – Floors 1 and 2 are Probate Offices and under the control and authority of the elected Probate Judge. The commissioners have zero authority over those employees.

Floor 3 is the Commission Meeting Chambers and Information Technology. The commission has authority over the third floor.

Floor 4 is rented out.

Floor 5 is the Houston County Revenue Commissioner Office. The Revenue Commissioner is an elected official and the staff works for the Revenue Commissioner.

Floor 6 is Accounting and County Commissioners office. The Houston County Commission has authority over Floor 6.

So in the Administrative Building only Floors 3 and 6 do the County Commissioners have authority over. The majority of the department heads are elected officials and the commission has no management authority over the elected officials. Not at the courthouse but at the Administrative Building the Commissioners have budget control and the same for the Sheriff.

The Houston County Commission Chairman is the direct supervisor for Houston County Engineer and Dothan-Houston County Emergency Management Director. The Farm Center staff reports to the County Administrator as does building maintenance.

Unless there is a meeting of the Houston County Commission and a commissioner gets a majority vote, that commissioner has zero authority to make an official act or take official action. The Chairman of the County Commission can not make a motion and can only vote in the event of a tie vote.

Compare that to the City of Dothan. Everyone employed by the City of Dothan, all 1,000 work directly for the City Manager, except the Dothan Personnel Director. That position is hired and works directly for the appointed 5 member Personnel Board. And that board is appointed by a Citizens Supervisory Committee that is made up of persons involved in civic organizations in the City of Dothan.

The personnel director and personnel board is not answerable to anyone, to include what they spend. Which makes it hard to control their spending such as legal expenses.

Now, take Enterprise and Ozark; the Mayor is in a role much like a City Manager. They manage the department heads and municipality and answer to the commission. One of the city commissioners is Chairman and the Mayor reports to them much like that of the City Manager. 


Trying to explain the discussion in the Henry County Commission meeting today. And while the commission can vote on the issue the Revenue Commissioner is not bound to their decision because they are an elected official.

But in a municipality the department heads are bound to the policies of the commission because the City Manager works directly for the commission. But the Mayor and Commissioners can not legally go directly to the Department Heads or employees without going through the City Manager.

Just attempting to explain how the system works.

It is sometimes difficult to explain.

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