OUR VIEW: Lanett needs oversight in wake of arrest

Published 11:14 am Sunday, February 21, 2021

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By now, news of Lanett Mayor Kyle McCoy’s arrest has made it around the state of Alabama. Type in “Lanett Mayor” on Google and you’ll find dozens upon dozens of articles laying out the basic facts of McCoy’s arrest, with the majority of details coming from a press release from Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office.

Most of those news outlets have never written about Lanett before — or very rarely do — but these are extenuating circumstances. Any time a mayor gets arrested anywhere, it’s going to be big news.

For anyone who does not yet know the facts that have been released about McCoy’s arrest, McCoy was indicted Friday on ethics charges, arrested Tuesday and quickly bonded out. He’s alleged to have not paid utilities at his residence and at a business he’s involved with; of allowing a dependent/family member operate a city-owned vehicle, and paying for more than $600 of personal items on a city of Lanett account. All three are felony charges.

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McCoy attended Monday’s Lanett City Council meeting, about 12 hours before his arrest — acting as though everything was fine. You would’ve never known this was a man who was about to be taking a mugshot at the Chambers County Jail a few hours later. We were disappointed in that.

Not that we’d expect McCoy to willingly want to talk about his impending arrest, but you’d think he’d want to get in front of the news rather than be behind it. We obviously understand him not wanting to be seen handcuffed and being taken into the jail — the mugshot was damning enough — but he still owes the city of Lanett more than what we’ve heard so far.

After his arrest and Marshall’s press release, McCoy released a statement that said he’s innocent. He implied that he has no plans to step down.

That’s his right, and the city really has no recourse otherwise, as he hasn’t been convicted of a crime. There’s a huge difference in “indicted” and “convicted,” and we aren’t to that stage yet (and may never be.) He has every right to fight these charges and absolutely should if he’s innocent.  If he is convicted, he’d be stripped of his position of mayor, though appeals may make the situation more complicated.

McCoy is a popular mayor, based solely on recent election results. By the fall’s election, the Alabama Ethics Commission had already reviewed his case and voted unanimously to send the case to the attorney general’s office.

You would’ve never known that at the polls. He pulled in 62 percent of the vote, as most voters stayed loyal by his side despite the impending investigation. Based on social media comments, most out of the outspoken locals in Lanett believe (or hope) he is innocent, and we do, too. McCoy was entrusted and elected to serve our community in an ethical manner, and it would be disappointing, to say the least, to find out he did the exact opposite.

But right now, all most of the state knows about Lanett is that its mayor was just arrested and has been charged with three felonies. Fair or not, we’re not sure that’s the look Lanett wants to portray statewide.

Certainly, there will be increased scrutiny now in McCoy’s actions as he remains Mayor of Lanett, and there should be. We urge the city council to make sure there is a good plan of oversight in place to monitor McCoy’s role in the financial aspects of city government while the charges against him are adjudicated. The public has a right to know that city government is taking these charges seriously while we all wait for the court system to determine McCoy’s innocence or guilt.