Allegations against mayor should be made public

Published 6:45 am Saturday, August 8, 2020

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The Alabama Ethics Commission voted unanimously Wednesday that Lanett Mayor Kyle McCoy violated the Alabama Ethics Act and referred the case to the Alabama Attorney General’s office.

We’ve received calls, and we’ve seen comments on social media, where people rightfully want to know more specifically what the allegations are.

Unfortunately, the details released publicly have been limited.  The segment about McCoy at the ethics commission meeting was roughly 30 seconds, and most of that was mentioning who he was followed by a quick vote. Then, they moved on to the next case.

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The video is on the Alabama Ethics Commission website if anyone wants to watch, but we’ll warn you that you’ll need to skip several hours in to find it.

After the ruling, we asked for more details. In an email to the VTN, Thomas Albritton, executive director for the Alabama Ethics Committee, referenced Alabama’s Grand Jury Secrecy laws, which protect the specific details of the case from being disclosed.

According to its website, the ethics commission generally deals with issues involving conflicts of interest, or the use of office for personal gain, on the part of public officials and public employees in Alabama.

For his part, McCoy has twice addressed the allegations, though he has not gotten specific.“Today in Montgomery, the Alabama Ethics Commission determined that probable cause exists that an ethics violation may have been committed by me,” McCoy said in a press release sent out Wednesday. “These allegations have been made against me in an attempt to impugn my character and to embarrass the City of Lanett. Unfortunately, this is the type scrutiny one must endure when they offer themselves to public service, especially during the political season. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss this matter with the Attorney General’s office and present my position as to any questions raised.  I certainly do not agree even with the inference of probable cause. We as a city will move forward from this and not be deterred thereby.  I will continue to hold myself to the highest standard as I continue to serve the citizens of this great city.”

In a speech at the Rotary Club Thursday, McCoy alluded to being instructed to remain silent on the matter, though he said he was not shying away from anyone and was willing to answer any questions asked of him. 

Legally, we understand why he wouldn’t say anything specific. But boy does the timing of this put voters in a complicated situation.

It’s really unfair to McCoy, his opponents, and voters for the allegations to be withheld from the public, especially with an election just a few days away. It’s unclear how serious they are, and there may not even be a case. Who knows.

We realize it’s unlikely, but the best-case scenario would be for the general details of the case to be made public, that way voters have an idea what McCoy is accused of when they go to the polls. It’s also important to remember that the standard of our judicial system is “innocent until proven guilty,” and at this point, there’s no public evidence of any wrongdoing by McCoy.

Otherwise, voters are going to have to determine how much the allegations factor in to their decision, if at all.