Our Opinion: City officials right to seek ethics opinion

Published 12:31 pm Monday, April 2, 2007

By Staff
Stories about officials seeking ethics opinions, unfortunately, often happen after the fact - after someone has voted inappropriately or made a decision that shows some impropriety.
So it was refreshing last week to learn that Brewton Mayor Ted Jennings - before ever voting on an issue regarding a new Wal-Mart Supercenter - had sought an attorney general's or Ethics Commission ruling on whether he or Councilman Henry Uptagrafft should vote on such matters that will come before the council.
Jennings, of course, works as a pharmacist at the retailer's current Brewton store, and Uptagrafft's wife is an associate there.
And the Ethics Commission's opinion was exactly as you would suspect - neither Jennings nor Uptagrafft should vote on anything regarding Wal-Mart's plans to build a Supercenter on U.S. 31, on the land once known as the old strawberry patch. Because it could be construed that either man stands to gain from the new store, neither should be able to vote.
State law is fairly clear on such matters - and those laws exist to protect taxpayers from officials who might not have the best intentions when they vote on issues regarding businesses or other entities from which they could benefit.
The city council is scheduled to vote Wednesday, April 11, on whether to rezone the property on which Wal-Mart hopes to build from residential to general business. The issue has already attracted opposition from adjacent landowners, and no doubt the Wal-Mart Supercenter will continue to be somewhat controversial as the project continues.
The city's steps to remove any hint of impropriety are a smart move that allows taxpayers to trust the process. We're glad the city will be keeping its nose clean on the issue.

Email newsletter signup