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Fairhope Mayor accused of breaking the law by using government property to push petition

(image: WPMI) Fairhope Mayor accused of breaking law by using government property to push petition

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A Fairhope City Council member is speaking out after he claims the Mayor violated the law during a recent petition aimed at changing the municipality’s form of government.

Councilman Kevin Boone said Mayor Karin Wilson advertised her support of the petition and posted it in several city owned buildings, including City Hall.

According to Boone, Mayor Wilson also used the city’s emergency notification system to push out her blog post supporting the petition.

"You look around and you find the petitions sitting in city buildings and you find the information on the city information website that we have. I think that's wrong," said Boone.

Several sections of Alabama Code Title 17, which helps govern elections law, prohibit the use of government resources to further political agendas.

According to the Alabama Code Title 17, which helps govern elections law, according to 17-17-4:

Any person who attempts to use his or her official authority or position for the purpose of influencing the vote or political action of any person shall be guilty, upon conviction, of a Class C felony.

Section 17-17-5 continues:

No person in the employment of the State of Alabama, a county, a city, a local school board, or any other governmental agency, whether classified or unclassified, shall use any state, county, city, local school board, or other governmental agency funds, property, or time, for any political activities.

Boone said he became aware of the situation after he was contacted by concerned citizens. He said he has presented evidence to the Baldwin County District Attorney’s Office.

"If people want to change the form of government, that's a political agenda. It's going to be promoted one way or the other and I don't feel its right to be done through the city," Boone said.

But Mayor Wilson says her intentions were for informative reasons. She pointed to a 2003 opinion by Attorney General Bill Pryor which states that city leaders have the authority to educate the public about legislative measures.

"So I can as Mayor support it and say that this would be good for our city. That's not a political activity. Therefore, these claims that they have are not valid," said Wilson.

Mayor Wilson has been vocal in her support of a petition to change the city’s government to a council-manager form, which means a city manager would be in charge of personnel responsibilities. In that form of government, the Mayor and City Council would handle policy issues.

Currently, all matters related to city employees are handled by the Mayor.

If approved, the vote on the change of government could happen in November.

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