No Wal-Mart vote from mayor, councilman
Published 12:08 pm Wednesday, March 28, 2007
By By Kerry Whipple Bean – publisher
Mayor Ted Jennings and Councilman Henry Uptagrafft - both of whom have ties to Wal-Mart - will not vote on any matter regarding the retailer's plans for a Supercenter in Brewton.
Jennings is a pharmacist at the Brewton Wal-Mart, and Uptagrafft's wife is an associate there. Wal-Mart announced plans earlier this year to build a Supercenter on U.S. 31 North, a location known as the old strawberry patch. The store is expected to be twice the size of the current store.
The mayor requested the opinion from city attorney Ed Hines, who sought a ruling from Attorney General Troy King and the Alabama Ethics Commission on the issue. Hines responded to the mayor in a letter released this week by the city.
Hines advised Jennings and Uptagrafft not to vote on any issue “that provides a benefit to Wal-Mart,” including a vote on whether to change the zoning for the new Wal-Mart location from residential to business.
According to an informal Ethics Commission opinion - the only opinion time would allow before a scheduled April 11 vote - neither Jennings or Uptagraaft should vote on any issues related to Wal-Mart.
Jennings should also not conduct the public hearing, Hines advised.
Hines and the Ethics Commission cited state statutes that prohibit public officials or public employees from using their official position to obtain personal gain for themselves or their family members.
The city council will meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 11, to decide whether to accept a planning commission recommendation to change the zoning for the Wal-Mart Supercenter location.
Landowners adjacent to the new Supercenter location have spoken out against the retailer's plans, objecting mainly to the store's proximity to their homes. Wal-Mart officials countered by saying they have added more buffers behind the store to accommodate the landowners.