Colony mayor files ethics charge against councilwoman

Amy Henderson, The Cullman Times, Ala.
·3 min read

Feb. 24—COLONY — The mayor of Colony has filed an ethics complaint against council member Ethel Alexander for using town funds to buy supplies for a tutoring program.

Colony Mayor Curtis Johnson said he initially filed the complaint with the State Ethics Commission a couple months ago, but recently resubmitted the complaint. Alexander said she wasn't aware of the complaint until Johnson told her about it after Tuesday night's town council meeting.

Last September, the Colony town council approved a monthly $50 payment to support the tutoring program at the urging of then-mayor Donnis Leeth.

At the time, Alexander said she'd been asked by some local parents for assistance with virtual schooling.

"They were having problems getting their kids online and virtual learning," she said. She began working with them three days a week at the Colony Education Complex. "What I'm doing is just assisting them in whatever areas they have concerns with," she said.

The students — kindergarten through 6th grade — meet in the main auditorium where they can social distance and do their classwork.

During Tuesday's meeting, Alexander returned the $150 she'd received for the program.

She said she'd called the Alabama League of Municipalities (ALM) Tuesday morning on another matter, and used that opportunity to ask about the legality of using town funds for the tutoring program.

"They told me it was not ethical for me to receive that money," she said.

Following the meeting, she told The Times she'd used the funds for purchasing supplies. "It wasn't like I took the money for frivolous things," said Alexander. "It was all good intentions."

Mayor Curtis Johnson said the complaint cites the Alabama code section that says, "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."

He said the tutoring program should have been done through the Colony library, and that the previous administration did not follow the law in approving the expenditure.

Neither Alexander nor Johnson could say if or when the Alabama Ethics Commission will hear the complaint.

At Tuesday's meeting the mayor also said Clerk Patricia Ponder recently gave short notice to use vacation hours to distribute food boxes, when he says she should have been working at the town hall.

"There's got to be a stop put to that," he said.

Ponder, who was not at Tuesday's meeting, later said, "It is absolutely true that I am using my vacation hours to distribute USDA boxes in Colony."

Councilwoman Mary Parker clarified that employees can do volunteer work when they are not regularly scheduled to work.

Johnson said the next distribution of the food boxes will be Monday, March 1 at town hall beginning around 9:30-10 a.m.

He also encouraged the council members to hold committee meetings prior to the council meetings. "All these committee meetings are very important," he said. "They are where we can hash out things."