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Lanett mayor McCoy responds to felony charges

Lanett mayor Kyle McCoy was arrested Tuesday on three felony charges of using his official position or office for personal gain, according to Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall.

McCoy turned himself in at the Chambers County Jail Tuesday morning, with a bond set at $30,000. He bonded out shortly after.

Marshall’s Special Prosecutions Division presented evidence to a Chambers County grand jury on Thursday, which returned an indictment against McCoy on Friday.

Specifically, the indictment charges McCoy with the following three counts:

  • using his official position or office to allow a dependent and/or family member to access and use a 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe owned by the City of Lanett without a lawful purpose
  • using his official position or office to obtain extensions and/or waivers of City of Lanett utility charges involving an amount equal to or a portion of $43,302.32 in U.S. currency
  • using his official position or office to obtain personal purchases made on a City of Lanett account valued at an amount equal to or a portion of $643.84 in U.S. currency and/or labor of a personal nature by City of Lanett employees, which was paid for with overtime wages.

“I have proudly served as the mayor of the City of Lanett since October 2015. As Mayor I have always held myself to the highest standard to serve the citizens of Lanett,” McCoy said in a statement. “Today, the attorney general’s office and others have made an attempt to destroy my character, embarrass the city, my family and the citizens of Lanett, by bringing criminal charges against me. I emphatically deny any wrongdoing, and I will vigorously defend these charges. I will not be deterred by this, and I will continue to serve the citizens of this great city with integrity and let justice prevail.”

The charges stem from a complaint that was filed with the Alabama Ethics Commission on Feb. 14, 2020. Former city employee David DeLee filed the complaint accusing the mayor of not paying utility bills at his place of residence or at a business McCoy owns. He also alleged that McCoy’s significant other was driving McCoy’s city registered vehicle for personal use and that people unrelated to the city were taken on beach vacations to various locations with city money. 

When the allegations were made public in September, McCoy said he was “surprised” and the allegations were “all wrong and completely false.”

DeLee filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in September, suing the city for alleged first amendment violations. According to the lawsuit, once the ethics commission ruled that McCoy had violated the Alabama Ethics Law, DeLee was relieved of his duties as a Lanett city employee. DeLee had been employed with the city of Lanett for 29 years and seven months, according to the lawsuit. 

“Because of his longevity with the city and due to him having back trouble, we agreed to pay him his accumulated sick leave through the month of August. There is a 30-day grace period before a person who retires starts getting paid. He should start getting his retirement pay in October. He received his regular rate of pay through August,” McCoy said in September.

If convicted, McCoy faces a maximum penalty of two to 20 years and a $30,000 fine for each of the three counts, which are class B felonies. Furthermore, Section 36-9-2 of the Code of Alabama states that when an officeholder is convicted of a felony, the office is vacated from the time of conviction.

Lori Lein, general counsel for the Alabama League of Municipalities, said McCoy is not required to step down unless he is convicted. If he were convicted, McCoy would forfeit his position as mayor. 

“Indictment alone doesn’t affect his ability to continue as mayor,” Lein said. “If convicted, that’s a whole different story, but he’s innocent until proven guilty, so he can continue to serve if he chooses to until such time as he’s convicted.”

Under Alabama Code § 11-44G-2, if McCoy is convicted, the Lanett City Council can fill the vacancy either from the county’s ranks or from outside the council.

According to the code, if the vacancy is not filled within 60 days, each city council member may submit a name to the governor for appointment. If the governor fails to make an appointment from any submitted names within 90 days after the vacancy occurs, the judge of probate shall call a special election to fill the vacancy.