Alabama Ethics Commission

In the race for Alabama's Attorney General, challenger Troy King is making a big issue of incumbent Steve Marshall's heavy financial support from the Republican Attorneys General Association.

King filed an ethics complaint yesterday arguing those donations are a "flagrant violation" of the state ban on transfers between political action committees, since the group took money from PACs.

RAGA attorney Charlie Spies calls the complaint a "desperate ploy" based on an "incorrect reading of the law."

Alabama State House
AP

Alabama’s ethics law for public employees and state officials could see some changes soon.

State Senate President Del Marsh filed a bill late last week including several measures aimed at clarifying or in some cases strengthening the ethics law. However, the bill would also allow state legislators to create legal defense funds and would provide a lobbying exemption for “economic development professionals”, provisions that give current ethics officials pause.

The Alabama Ethics Commission has found probable cause that a state district court judge in Cullman County has violated the state’s ethics law.

Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton says Cullman County District Court Judge Kim Chaney appointed his son, who is an attorney, to criminal cases in the district. The state ethics code says, in part, that public officials cannot use their offices to benefit themselves or family members.

Albritton says the commission is referring the matter to Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office.

A business lobbyist and former environmental regulator from Alabama has been selected as the new regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overseeing eight Southeastern states.

Former Alabama Department of Environmental Management director Trey Glenn will be overseeing the work of the EPA in Alabama as well as Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North and South Carolina and Tennessee.

A finalist for Alabama’s state school superintendent position has filed a civil lawsuit against a state school board member and others. He’s accusing them of orchestrating a scheme and ethics complaint last year to knock him out of the running to be the state's next education chief.

Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Craig Pouncey filed the lawsuit yesterday in Montgomery. It names board member Mary Scott Hunter, Deputy Superintendent Philip Cleveland and others as defendants.

A lawyer for Governor Robert Bentley is denying that his campaign fund violated the law by paying legal fees for a former aide with whom Bentley was accused of having an affair.  

Bentley attorney William Athanas says the roughly $9,000 payment for legal fees of Rebekah Mason was consistent with state law. He says that's because it involved work she performed as Bentley's senior political adviser.

The Alabama Ethics Commission says gifts to school teachers and other public employees might be able to cost more than $25.

Earlier this week, the state ethics panel gave preliminary approval to an advisory opinion saying gifts for public employees are not always subject to the $25 limit. Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton says the commission wanted to clear up confusion about gifts, including customary holiday gifts to teachers.

Officials with the Alabama Department of Corrections say two of the state’s prisons are on lockdown after inmates began refusing to complete assigned jobs.

A statement from the department says inmates at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore and the Elmore Correctional Facility first refused to help staff prepare breakfast on Sunday, then failed to report to assigned jobs on Monday.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is due to testify before State Auditor Jim Zeigler later this morning regarding potential misuse of state funds, but Ziegler says he doubts Bentley will show up.

Zeigler says the state auditor has the authority to call any state official to testify under oath if there are suspicions that state money is being misused. Late last month, he ordered the governor to address several areas including the use of BP settlement money and records related to his relationship with former staffer Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

Elliott Spillers
Pete Pajor / Crimson White

Students at the University of Alabama repeated a list of demands for more diversity on the Tuscaloosa campus.

A student march started at Malone-Hood Plaza and ended at Gorgas Library, where the students' eleven goals were restated. The group “We Are Done UA” wants a safe space for students of color, a diversity class for freshmen, and a way to report hate crimes and sexual abuse on campus, among other things.

St. Clair Prison
Equal Justice Initiative

The U.S. prison system is set to release thousands of inmates nationwide including hundreds in Alabama later this month thanks to new sentencing guidelines.

The Washington Post reports that this one-time release will occur between October 30 and November 2. The change is due to new guidelines shortening drug trafficking sentences that were approved last year.

Alabama’s Attorney General Luther Strange is asking the state Ethics Commission to reconsider an opinion that he says may undermine the state ethics law.

Strange sent a letter earlier this month asking commissioners to revisit advice they gave to state representative Patricia Todd. The commission told Todd she could advocate and vote on bills backed by her employer, an organization that works on gay and lesbian issues. The opinion says that’s OK, as long as the votes were on issues and not a financial benefit to her employer.

A judge recently stopped another effort from Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s defense to have his ethics case dismissed.

Lee County Judge Jacob Walker III granted a state motion to kill subpoenas against Governor Robert Bentley and the custodian of records for the Alabama Ethics Commission.

Hubbard’s lawyers say those subpoenas were necessary to learn about possible communication records from Governor Bentley regarding Attorney General Luther Strange recusing himself from the case and appointing chief prosecutor Van Davis.

Cumberland School of Law / Samford University

Former Cumberland Law School Dean John Carroll will serve as acting director of the State Ethics Commission beginning Oct. 1.

Ethics Commission Chairman Ed Crowell announced Tuesday that Carroll will fill in when Director Jim Sumer retires Oct. 1 after being the commission's top staff member for 17 years. Crowell says Carroll will not be a candidate for the permanent position.

Alabama Ethics Commission

The Alabama Ethics Commission is beginning the search for a new director, but commissioners already have someone in mind to take the job on an interim basis.

Members voted Thursday to offer the position of acting director to former Cumberland Law School Dean John Carroll. Carroll is also a former U.S. magistrate judge for the Middle District of Alabama.

Commission chairwoman Larkin Martin said she had a preliminary conversation with Carroll and will reach out to see if he will accept the position.

Alabama Ethics Commission

The longtime executive director of the Alabama Ethics Commission is retiring.

Jim Sumner told the commission Wednesday that he plans to step down Oct. 1. Sumner has spent 35 years in public service, including 17 years as the chief staff member for the Ethics Commission. He previously worked in the attorney general's office, in the lieutenant governor's office and for the University of Alabama System.