The latest hearing for the Birmingham Board of Education began today in Jefferson County Circuit Judge Houston Brown's courtroom. Several items have already come up during the hearing, including testimony that could show the board's president may be ineligible to do his job.
The hearing will determine whether or not Judge Brown will grant a preliminary injunction to replace the temporary injunctions that currently prohibit the BOE from firing Witherspoon and keep the Birmingham school board from interfering with the state's takeover.
Birmingham BOE president Edward Maddox was the first witness called to testify. While on the stand, Maddox admitted that he contacted five other board members individually to discuss firing Craig Witherspoon, superintendant of Birmingham City Schools. The other board members he says he spoke with were Virginia Volker, Alana Edwards, Emanuel Ford, Tyrone Belcher and April Williams.
Ed Richardson, state appointed consultant, says he believes those discussions are a violation of the open meeting law.
Maddox has been vocal about his desire to terminate Witherspoon's contract, and says he doesn't believe state superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice has the authority to stop the Birmingham BOE from firing Witherspoon.
Maddox also admitted on the stad, after being shown a legal lending record, that he has a home in Trussville and in Woodlawn. Witherspoon's attorney U.W. Clemon introduced a legal document for Maddox's Trussville home, which has Maddox's signature saying it's his primary residence.
Board members must be a resident of Birmingham to be elected to the board.
Maddox also said today that he spoke with Samuette Drew before the board offered her the position of interim superintendent to see if she would be interested in the job. Drew previously told reporters that she never discussed the position until it was offered to her during the school board meeting held July 17. During that meeting, the board fired Witherspoon and appointed Drew as the interim superintendent.
Samuette Drew was also called to the stand today. She said she was contacted by Ford and one other board member about being appointed interim superintendent a week before Witherspoon was fired. Drew says she was asked in early April if she would take part in a transition. She also said she tried to stay clear of the board's disagreement with Witherspoon.
Witherspoon took the stand in the afternoon and spoke about his firing and being locked out of his office.
The hearing adjourned Wednesday around 5 p.m. It will reconvene at 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 2.
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