Hanceville’s Nail pleads guilty to 15 misdemeanors, resigns 

Kenneth Nail is seen in 2019. (Tribune file photo)

Sawyer named interim mayor 

HANCEVILLE, Ala. – Longtime Hanceville Mayor Kenneth Nail on Tuesday, Dec. 19, pleaded guilty to 15 misdemeanor counts of using his office for personal gain. As part of the plea deal, Nail resigned from office. He was ordered to pay a combined $4,000 in restitution to three individuals, a $2,500 fine, perform 120 hours of community service and be on probation for 15 years, which prohibits him from working for any public or governmental entity. 

Nail was indicted back in November 2023 of 15 felony counts, but the plea deal lowered those to misdemeanors.  

“The trust between the people and their government must remain strong. Mr. Nail pleaded guilty, admitted to his misconduct, and also apologized to the citizens of Hanceville for his actions,” Cullman County District Attorney Champ Crocker said in a statement. “I believe this swift resolution is balanced and shows both consideration for admitting guilt and that elected officials who violate the public trust will be held accountable.” 

Nail told The Tribune, “I’m glad it’s over. I did what was best for me and my family. I love Hanceville and I never intended to violate any rules or laws.” 

Hanceville Mayor Pro Tempore Jim Sawyer is now interim mayor until a permanent appointment is made by the council to finish Nail’s term, as sanctioned by the Alabama League of Municipalities’ “Handbook for Mayors and Councilmembers” Chapter 2, Section 18, Article A which states: 

“Chapter 2, Sec. 18. Vacancy in the Office of Mayor 

(a) Cities and Towns under 12,000 in Population.  

In the event of a vacancy, for any cause, in the office of mayor of a municipality of less than 12,000 in population, the council shall fill the vacancy either from its own membership or from outside the membership of the council. While the Attorney General has opined that a councilmember may vote for himself or herself in an election to fill a vacancy in the office of mayor, AGO 2001-048, the League recommends contacting the Alabama Ethics Commission before doing so. A councilmember so appointed need not go through the formalities of resigning his or her seat on the council. His or her office is vacated by operation of law when he or she assumes the duties of mayor. AGO to Miss Thornburg, September 14, 1966.  

Any person appointed by the council to fill such a vacancy must meet all of the qualifications prescribed for the office of mayor. The council may not evade its responsibility for making such an appointment by calling a special election. 74 Q. Rep. Att. Gen. 8.” 

Alabama Code 11-44G-2 defines the scope of appointment after a mayoral vacancy and gives a limit of 60 days to do so before a special election must be called. With 60 days upon resignation for an appointment, the clock has started ticking for the Hanceville City Council to find a suitable replacement. Sawyer explained that it is up to the council to appoint whomever they deem fit for the position, and the appointee does not necessarily have to be another council member or even himself as pro tempore. 

“I would step up and do the job to finish this term out,” he explained when asked if he would be up to the position, noting that while it would solve one challenge for the council, it would present another as an appointment for his position would need to made also. “But, if I’m appointed, then that vacates my seat, then the city council will have to appoint somebody else to come on the council to fill my seat.” 

Hanceville City Clerk Tania Wilcox clarified that if there is not an obvious choice for council appointment, there would still be enough members to qualify as a quorum.  

Sawyer maintained that whether he only serves as interim mayor or is appointed to finish the remainder of Nail’s term, Hanceville residents can expect business as usual on behalf of the council as it moves forward. 

“There’s no intent right now for the city council to make any major changes or anything like that. We’re just going to try to carry on the day-to-day operations of the city, keep providing the services and do the very best we can with what we’ve got,” Sawyer said.  

Prior to entering into the plea agreement, Nail issued a public apology, stating, “Today, I am pleading guilty to fifteen (15) misdemeanor ethics violations. I am truly sorry for the harm and inconvenience brought about by this. I never wanted to bring any negativity to Hanceville. I love Hanceville and the people of Hanceville. I would never do anything to intentionally harm the city. Again I am truly sorry.”

View full plea agreement here:

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