Colony mayor files ethics complaint against council member

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Colony Mayor Curtis Johnson (seated), following the conclusion of the Colony Town Council meeting Tuesday, informs Councilwoman and Mayor Pro Tem Ethel Alexander (standing) that he has filed an ethics complaint against her. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

COLONY, Ala. – Colony Mayor Curtis Johnson, at the conclusion of the Town’s regular council meeting Tuesday, informed Councilwoman and Mayor Pro Tem Ethel Alexander that he has filed an ethics complaint against her over funds she received for a tutoring program she and a group of local mothers started for children in the Colony area who were struggling to keep up with virtual learning under COVID-19 school restrictions.

During the otherwise uneventful meeting, Alexander announced that she had talked to the Alabama League of Municipalities about the $50 per month donation the Colony Town Council voted to give to the program last fall and reported that the League had informed her that it was improper for her as a member of the council to accept money from the Town for services beyond her position on the council. She had, by that time, already received $150 from the Town before Johnson stopped the payments.

Then Alexander told the council, “Then what I did was, I went out and got a money order of $150 to be paid back to the Town, and I will give this to (Town Clerk) Pat (Ponder).”

Johnson responded that he had something to tell her later on, and the two met face to face across the council table after the meeting ended, when Johnson informed her of the filing of an ethics complaint over the funds. 

After the conclusion of their meeting, Johnson showed The Tribune a section of the Alabama League of Municipalities’ manual for mayors and councils under “Conflicts of Interest” which reads:

No Business, Work or Contract with Municipality. No councilmember, officer (mayor included) or employee of a municipality may be directly or indirectly interested in any work, business or contract, the expense price or consideration of which is paid from the municipal treasury. Section 11-43-12, Code of Alabama 1975. Any mayor or council member who shall have any private or personal financial dealings with or for or on account of the municipality except as imposed by this official position or who shall render a service to do any work or supply any commodity, for financial compensation payable from municipal funds, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall constitute grounds for impeachment. Section 11-43-161. Code of Alabama 1975.

(1) Elected Officials and Employees Can’t Have Any Other Salaried Job With Municipality. These provisions positively prevent in officer from holding any other salaried position in the municipality (33 O Rep. Att. Gen 67) even though he or she receives no pay for such office. AGO to Hon. Cecil White, February 7, 1966. A council member may not serve as is police officer for the municipality even if there is no compensation for acting as a police officer AGO 1997-115. A municipal employee may not hold two separate municipal jobs, but he or she may serve in a position that requires the performance of more than one job or function. AGO 1998.029

This is a developing story.

Town Clerk chastised for leaving office to distribute food boxes

During the work session before the regular meeting, Johnson told the council and audience that Ponder had recently left town hall prior to its noon closing to go to the Educational Complex, which houses the town’s Carpenter’s Cabinet food pantry, to give out boxes of food. The mayor then noted that Ponder was using vacation time to go to the pantry but said that she had not given sufficient notice that she would be out. Johnson did not object to the distribution of food, but said of Ponder’s early departure to do so, “Got to put a stop to that,” adding that she will need to do such things after town hall closes at noon. 

In a message to The Tribune Tuesday evening, Ponder said, “It is absolutely true that I am using my vacation hours to distribute USDA boxes in Colony, and I feel privileged and blessed for this opportunity.”

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com