The request by the Madison County Commission to relocate the Confederate monument outside the downtown Huntsville courthouse has been rejected by the committee designated to hear such appeals.
In an email to Madison County Commission Chair Dale Strong on Wednesday, the commission was informed that its request to relocate the monument – erected in 1905 – “is outside the scope” of authority granted to the Committee on Alabama Monument Protection.
That committee, according to the 2017 law, is permitted to hear cases for historical structures that have been in place between 20 and 40 years.
The email to Strong from Steve Murray, director of the Alabama Department of Archives & History, was sent on behalf of the committee. AL.com obtained a copy of the email Friday.
“Further inquiries regarding the legality of the Madison County Commission’s proposed actions should be directed to the Office of the Alabama Attorney General,” Murray’s email said.
It appears that there are no legal options available to the commission to move the monument. The law assesses a $25,000 fine to entities who move historical structures without the blessing of the monument committee. The cities of Birmingham and Mobile have paid those fines after removing Confederate monuments earlier this year.
"In circumstances where a memorial or monument has been in place for 40 or more years, the Memorial Preservation Act and the administrative rules of the Committee on Alabama Monument Protection clearly state that waivers cannot be granted," the office of Attorney General Steve Marshall said in the statement last month to AL.com.
The AGs statement did not speak specifically to the situation with the Madison County monument but instead as an interpretation of the law.
Jeff Rich, attorney for the Madison County Commission, said the commission is continuing to work toward a legal resolution to relocating the monument.
“We have received a response,” Rich said. “We are evaluating that response. The commission remains committed to trying to find a lawful path forward to try to relocate the monument. Other than the fact that we did get this email, and we’re evaluating the impact of that, nothing has changed from the stance of the commission to move forward in a lawful manner to get it relocated.”
The county commission unanimously voted June 10 to seek a waiver from the monument committee to move the monument.
“We all want the same thing,” Commissioner Phil Riddick said just before the vote. “We want to do it legally.”
The Huntsville city council last month unanimously approved a resolution to relocate the monument to historic Maple Hill Cemetery.
Moving the monument was a hot topic of discussion among dozens of people who addressed the city council at Thursday night’s meeting, though the council has no authority over the monument, which sits on county property at the courthouse. Among the comments were calling for the immediate removal of the monument and paying the fine. A grassroots organization, Tennessee Valley Progressive Alliance, has said it has raised the money to cover the fine and is willing to pay it for the county.
“I think an area of agreement is that we want to see the monument moved to Maple Hill,” Huntsville city councilwoman Jennie Robinson said following the public comments. “We may disagree on the process to get there but I think we’re all agreed we want to see these things happen.”
Updated today, July 10, 2020, at 3:12 p.m. with comment from Madison County Commission attorney Jeff Rich.
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