(MOBILE, Ala.) - A circuit court judge will decide whether or not to enforce a temporary restraining order filed by the City of Prichard against its police chief.
Prichard Mayor Troy Ephriam and Police Chief Jimmy Gardner appeared in court Friday at Government Plaza for a hearing regarding the temporary restraining order filed Thursday, the same day Ephriam had delivered a letter of termination to Gardner.
Chief Gardner has since argued that the mayor does not have the legal authority to fire him, and refused to vacate his office. Gardner appeared at Friday's hearing in full uniform.
Circuit Court Judge Joseph Johnston said his decision on the restraining order could come as late as Monday.
As of Friday evening, it is up to perception as to who is running the Prichard Police Department.
"Captain Arthur Farrow will serve in that capacity," Mayor Ephriam said.
Ephriam said he was working within the framework of the law in serving Chief Gardner with a termination notice after his contract expired on November 20th.
"We stand by that, and we feel affirmed that the judge's decision will be in our favor," Ephriam said.
Prichard City Attorney Jerome Carter argued in court Friday that Alabama law (ALA. Code Section 11-43C-38) required four city council votes to approve the police chief's five-year contract in October, and the chief only got three.
Former Prichard Mayor Ron Davis and Chief Gardner's attorney interpret the same law differently.
"I guess the mayor is looking for a yes man, and Chief Gardner wouldn't be the one to do that," Davis said. "It takes four council members to fire the chief. The mayor does not have the sole authority to fire the chief."
Whatever Judge Johnston decides, Davis hinted the battle between the mayor and the police chief is more than just about contracts.
"I'm quite sure that there's some things that may come out later on," Davis said. "I'm not at liberty to talk about those things."
Local 15 News posed the question of underlying circumstances to the chief's termination to Mayor Troy Ephriam.
"It remains to be determined. Yes," Ephriam said.