November 20, 2014

Taking contributions may be legal under the campaign-finance law, but illegal under the Ethics Act

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: State Sen. Clyde Chambliss is facing a complaint filed with the State of Alabama Ethics Commission alleging a conflict of interest in actions he took as a Prattville city councilman.

The Prattville Republican resigned from his post on the city council on Nov. 5, the same day he was sworn in to the Legislature. Prattville resident Jon Lee Finnegan filed the complaint.

Her complaint stems from Chambliss' Senate campaign receiving contributions from AUTO PAC, a political action committee of automobile dealers in the state. According to campaign finance disclosure forms filed with the Secretary of State's office, Chambliss receive a total of $13,500 in contributions from the PAC.

While on the council, Chambliss voted for an incentives package used to keep Long Lewis Ford of the River Region's dealership in Autauga County. Long Lewis Ford of Muscle Shoals contributed $2,500 to AUTO PAC on Feb. 2, finance disclosure forms show. In August, Long Lewis Ford of Muscle Shoals purchased the former Gilmore Ford in Prattville, and the business was renamed Long Lewis Ford of the River Region. -- Chambliss faces ethics complaint

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November 19, 2014

Study argues switching to elected judges will help Alabama's economy

AL.com reports: For years, voices from the left have called for an end to partisan judicial elections in Alabama. Now, a free market think tank at Troy University has added support from the other side of the political spectrum.

The Manuel H. Johnson Center for the Political Economy on Tuesday released a study examining Alabama's judicial system and draws two main conclusions:

• Using partisan elections to select judges results in a lower-quality judiciary.

• Holding all parties in multi-defendant civil cases responsible for the entire judgment - even when some are far more responsible for the harm in question - hurts economic vitality by discouraging investment by bigger companies. -- Should Alabama switch to appointed judges? Study argues it would improve economy | AL.com

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November 12, 2014

Roundup of stories on Alabama redistricting argument

Official transcript

Reuters

Derek Muller

Washington Post

AP

Emily Bazelon

Nina Totenberg on NPR

Adam Liptak at NY Times

Rick Hasen on SCOTUSblog

Thanks to Rick Hasen for collecting these.

Disclosure: I am one of the counsel for the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus plaintiffs.

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November 5, 2014

"Alabama Democrats take redistricting fight to the Supreme Court"

Kyle Whitmire writes a "curtain raiser" on ALcom: When state Rep. Daniel Boman ran for the legislature in 2010, it was a lot easier for him to picture Alabama House District 16 in his head. You could pretty much pull any Alabama History text book from a high school library shelf and see the boundaries - Lamar and Fayette counties - on the map on one of the first few pages.

But when running for reelection four years later, after the Alabama Legislature redrew the lines in 2012, he had to learn a different district.

Half of Lamar County has been cut from the district. In its place was added northeast Tuscaloosa County and northwest Jefferson County. Boman lives in Sulligent, about three miles from the Mississippi line, but his district now stretches half the width of the state, all the way to Gardendale.

"For me to cover that much geography is tough," Boman said Tuesday going into a an Election Day fight he would ultimately lose. "The other part is just trying to figure just what part I represented." -- Alabama Democrats take redistricting fight to the Supreme Court | AL.com

Note: the story talks generally about the ALBC v. Alabama case set for argument one week from today. I am one of the plaintiffs’ counsel in the case.

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"Two Montgomery polling places hand out wrong ballots"

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Two polling places in Montgomery handed out the wrong ballots to voters Tuesday, which may throw off the results for two Alabama House of Representative races, according to Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead.

The polling places in question, Beulah Baptist Church and Newtown Church of Christ, both have precincts in House District 77, in which incumbent Democrat John Knight is running against former Republican Rep. David Grimes, and House District 78, in which Alvin Holmes, the Democratic incumbent, is running against Tijuanna Adentunji.

Armistead said the party started getting calls Tuesday afternoon from voters who thought they'd gotten the wrong ballot.

He said after looking into the problem, the Alabama GOP found that rather than giving out the correct ballot to individuals based on their precinct, the poll workers just gave out the ballots, one stack at a time.

Poll workers didn't know there were two separate ballots, he said. -- Two Montgomery polling places hand out wrong ballots

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November 4, 2014

Gun-toter arrested at polling place in Shelby County

AL.com reports: A Shelby County Sheriff's deputy this morning arrested a founding member of the gun-rights group BamaCarry who openly wore a holstered pistol to a Pelham voting location. ...

The arrest happened as the Shelby County Sheriff's Office has taken a stance against allowing weapons at the polling sites.

"Each polling location in Shelby County will have a 'No Firearm' sign posted at the entrance of the precinct, at the requests of the private property owner or governing body of the property. This will be enforced in accordance with Alabama law," the Sheriff's Office said in a statement last week.

"Our goal is to allow every registered voter in Shelby County the right to vote in an influence-free environment," Sheriff Chris Curry said in the statement last week. "Voting is a constitutional right and it is our job to facilitate the process effectively and efficiently." -- Pelham voter wearing holstered pistol arrested at church polling site this morning | AL.com

Disclosure: The article notes that I issued a statement on behalf of the Joe Hubbard for Attorney General Campaign concerning the arrest.

Update to the story above: Burchfield a few minutes later emailed the voting violation code for Kennedy's charge, which is listed as Section 17-17-33, titled "Obstruction, intimidation, etc., of voting rights of others."

"It shall be unlawful for any person to obstruct, intimidate, threaten, or coerce any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he or she may choose, or for the purpose of causing such other person to vote for, or not to vote for, any candidate for state or local office or any other proposition at any election. Any person who violates this section shall be guilty, upon conviction, of a Class A misdemeanor."

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"In Last Minute Decision, Alabama Says Voters Can't Use Public Housing ID At The Polls"

ThinkProgress reports: Alabama, which is testing out its new voter ID law for the first time this year, will not accept public housing ID at the polls.

Bernard Simelton of the Alabama NAACP State Conference told ThinkProgress that he learned Friday that voters will not be able to use their public housing ID under the Attorney General’s interpretation of the new law. -- In Last Minute Decision, Alabama Says Voters Can't Use Public Housing ID At The Polls » ThinkProgress

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Vote or "land may be given to honor ... klansmen."

ALcom reports: A flier distributed by a Montgomery civil rights group warns Alabama voters that if they do not vote Tuesday, "land may be given to honor extremist groups to honor klansmen."

The reference to the Ku Klux Klan is part of the flier titled "18 reasons why you should vote if you're 18 years or older." The flier also warns of cuts to food stamps and unemployment insurance. ...

The flier features the logo of the Alabama New South Coalition, a civil rights advocacy group founded in 1986. Its purpose is "to promote the general welfare of all people through independent focused organizations dedicated to progressive ideals of freedom, justice and democracy," according to its website. -- Alabama land will be used to honor 'klansmen' if people do not vote, flier from New South Coalition warns | AL.com

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November 1, 2014

Mike Hubbard "Collides With Ethics Law He Espoused"

The New York Times reports: For a time, it seemed that Michael G. Hubbard and the prosecutors were waging parallel wars.

Both aimed their fire at the state's political establishment: Mr. Hubbard, as a state representative and chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, by focusing intently on defeating the Democrats who controlled the State House until 2010, and federal anticorruption prosecutors by launching a fusillade of investigations.

But this year, on his way to another easy re-election as the most powerful politician in Alabama, Mr. Hubbard and the law collided.

On Oct. 20, Mr. Hubbard, 52, was arrested after a grand jury returned a 23-count indictment, partly on the basis of an ethics law he had championed, accusing him of using his positions as party chairman and speaker of the House to steer thousands of dollars' worth of business to companies in which he had a financial interest. Mr. Hubbard has vehemently denied the charges. -- Firebrand Alabama Republican Collides With Ethics Law He Espoused - NYTimes.com

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October 30, 2014

Rick Hasen's preview of Alabama redistricting cases in Supreme Court

Rick Hasen writes on SCOTUSblog: The Supreme Court has long ignored Justice Felix Frankfurter's warning to stay out of the political thicket. It regularly hears challenges to redistricting cases (not to mention lots of other types of election cases), raising issues from the one-person, one-vote rule to vote dilution under the Voting Rights Act, to racial and partisan gerrymandering claims. The Court's decision to hear a part of a challenge to Alabama's state legislative redistricting plan enacted after the 2010 census (in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama, set for argument on November 12) brings all of these issues together in a seemingly technical but high-stakes case, showing the artificiality of separating issues of race and party in redistricting, featuring a bold role reversal in political parties' use of racial gerrymandering claims, and offering a surprising new threat to the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. - Argument preview: Racial gerrymandering, partisan politics, and the future of the Voting Rights Act : SCOTUSblog

Disclosure: I am one of the counsel for ALBC.

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October 29, 2014

A campaign-finance tidbit from the 3rd day of Barry Moore's perjury trial

AL.com reports: Prosecutors sought to introduce evidence that Hubbard was helping to pay for Moore's legal defense through campaign contributions.

They said campaign finance reports would show that.

The defense lawyers objected to introducing information about Hubbard's campaign funds paying Moore's legal fees. They said it would be prejudicial to the jury, which was not in the courtroom during the discussion.

Prosecutors dropped their request to introduce the information about legal fees. -- Rep. Barry Moore takes the stand in perjury trial, says Speaker Mike Hubbard never threatened to withhold project funds | AL.com

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Commercial use of the Alabama Great Seal is illegal

Just in case you were thinking of sending out letters with the Great Seal of Alabama on them, it's illegal (Ala. Code § 13A-10-13 makes it a Class C felony). And state officials seem not to like that bit of impersonation:

California state officials are now looking into whether any state laws were violated when researchers from Stanford University and Dartmouth College sent to some of the state's voters a mailer similar to the one that has stirred significant controversy in Montana and in political science circles nationwide, TPM has learned. -- California Is Now Looking Into That Controversial Poli Sci Election Mailer

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October 26, 2014

"3 local campaigns received funds from Speaker Hubbard, paid thousands to companies he owns"

The Decatur Daily reports: The campaigns of several area legislative candidates received thousands of dollars in campaign funds from entities controlled by recently indicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard and paid thousands to companies he owned.

State Reps. Dan Williams, R-Athens; Terri Collins, R-Decatur; and Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, all entered office in 2010, and all received support from Hubbard. During the same election cycle, each of their campaigns paid money to Hubbard's printing and media companies. Hubbard, R-Auburn, was then chairman of the state Republican Party and House Minority Leader. After the November 2010 election, he became House Speaker.

The lawmakers said they did not know at the time that Hubbard had an ownership in the companies.

"At a minimum, it creates an appearance that this is all just money being laundered through a candidate and back to enrich the originator of the funds," said Meredith McGehee, policy director of The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign-finance organization based in Washington, D.C. "These transactions sound so incestuous. The candidates should have been aware of the appearance this would create, even if there was not an understanding that, ‘I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine.' " -- Financial ties that bind - Decatur Daily: News

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"Hubbard indictment hinges on one particular ethical question"

Cameron Smith's op-ed says: During a recent press conference responding to his corruption indictment, Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard asked a critical question "Why does the Attorney General's Office....think it's a crime to do business with anyone you didn't know before you were elected to office?" ...

Outside employment for citizen legislators is not inherently problematic and may actually provide a benefit. For instance, legislators that actively participate in the business community will likely have a better perspective on economic challenges facing the state and the issues impacting their respective industries.

The ethical problem arises when legislators secure business and financial opportunities because of their public office or in exchange for specific favors. Most people are familiar with the "quid pro quo" type of corruption, but the more general use of a public office for personal gain is equally problematic. In that situation, politicians can ask for favors, compensation, or other benefits without agreeing to do anything in return. The implied agreement is that those providing the value to the politician can expect his or her help on their priorities in the future. -- Hubbard indictment hinges on one particular ethical question: opinion | AL.com

Contrast that with Kyle Whitmire's column: For instance, Hubbard faces 11 counts of soliciting a thing of value from a lobbyist or principal. (A principal is defined in the law as anyone who employs a lobbyist.) The elements the prosecution must prove are fairly straight forward. Is Hubbard a member of the Alabama Legislature? (Yes.) Did he ask for or receive anything of value from a lobbyist or principal? (If yes, then he's guilty.) -- Is Mike Hubbard going to jail in a gift basket? The consequences of legislate now, litigate later: opinion | AL.com

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October 25, 2014

Hubbard may have been hoist on his own petard

Kyle Whitmire writes on AL.com: When the Alabama Legislature passed the state ethics law in 2010, the newly elected Republican majority boasted that the state now had the toughest ethics laws in the nation. ...

Sometimes the consequences can land folks behind bars. Lawmakers rarely have to deal with those consequences themselves, and if some poor sap gets thrown in the pokey? Well, then they can brag they're tough on crime.

But this week it was one of the Legislature's own who fell in the gap.

Fifteen of the 23 counts against Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard are built on new ethics laws passed since 2010. -- Is Mike Hubbard going to jail in a gift basket? The consequences of legislate now, litigate later: opinion | AL.com

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October 21, 2014

Speaker Hubbard indicted on 23 felony charges

AL.com reports: Mike Hubbard, speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives and a powerful leader in the state Republican Party, has been indicted by a grand jury and charged with 23 counts, including using his office for personal gain and soliciting things of value.

Late Monday afternoon, Hubbard reported to the Lee County Jail where he was booked.

If convicted, Hubbard faces a maximum penalty of two to 20 years in prison and up to $30,000 in fines for each count. ...

The charges against Hubbard include 23 class B felonies. Those charges include:

Four counts of using of his office as Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party for personal gain;
One count of voting for legislation with a conflict of interest;
Eleven counts of soliciting or receiving a thing of value from a lobbyist or principal;
Two counts of using his office as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives for personal gain;
Four Counts of lobbying an executive department or agency for a fee;
One count of using state equipment, materials, etc. for private gain.
-- Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard indicted on 23 felony corruption charges by Lee County Grand Jury | AL.com

The indictment is available on Scribd.

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October 19, 2014

"Lawmakers: Campaign money laws need tuning"

The Decatur Daily reports: Some north Alabama lawmakers are considering ways to better enforce state campaign finance reporting laws, with one option being to create a group similar to the ethics commission.

Rules are in place on how politicians, and those who hope to be politicians, gather and spend political contributions. And there are repercussions, including fines, for not following the rules. But no state agency is charged with ensuring compliance. ...

Late in this year's legislative session, Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, introduced a bill, co-sponsored by Orr, that would have let the secretary of state issue fines.

It passed the Senate but didn't have the needed unanimous support, required late in the session, to be sent to the House for a vote.

Now, Orr and others are looking at legislation for 2015. -- Lawmakers: Campaign money laws need tuning - Decatur Daily: News

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October 15, 2014

"Moore Spending Campaign Cash for Legal Defense"

Alabama Political Reporter reports: Indicted lawmaker Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, is not only spending his campaign donations on his legal defense, he is also hiring "private-eyes" with other people's money.

Moores latest FCPA filing show that he raised $16,000, for the week ending October 10. All totaled, Moore had a beginning balance of $35,351.64. Of that amount he spent $27,157.31 on his legal defense. Moore is charged with two felony counts of making false statements and two felony counts of perjury, in relation to the Special Grand Jury probe into Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. If convicted, Moore could face a maximum of 60 years in State prison.

But, not only did donors pony-up for lawyers at Baxley, Dillard, Mcknight & James and Motley, Motley & Yarbrough, they paid for the services of Dothan-based M & M Investigation. -- Moore Spending Campaign Cash for Legal Defense

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A-Vote and Progress PAC contribute to legislative candidates

AL.com reports: The Alabama Education Association's political action committee has spent more than $200,000 on Democratic candidates in legislative races so far this month.

Alabama Voice of Teachers for Education, AVOTE, also gave $300,000 this month to Democrat Parker Griffith, who is running against Republican incumbent Robert Bentley for governor. That was the second $300,000 contribution from AVOTE to Griffith. ...

Meanwhile, the Business Council of Alabama's PAC, Progress PAC, has spent roughly the same amount, about $200,000, on Republican legislative candidates this month. -- AEA PAC spends more than $200,000 on Democratic candidates for Legislature | AL.com

Disclosure: I provide legal assistance to A-Vote.

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Trouble inside ALGOP

AL.com reports: With only three weeks until the General Election, Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead is charging some high ranking members of his own party with efforts to "sabotage" the GOP's efforts at the polls.

In an email sent out just before 1 a.m. Tuesday, Armistead says this to members of the GOP Executive Committee, a key leadership group of the party. ... "Several members of the ALGOP Steering Committee seem determined to sabotage ALGOP's 2014 political plan to suit their own personal preferences. They want to disregard the work that has been done, and is being done, by our political team who has worked for nearly two years developing our plan based on demographics, voting history, polling data and viability of candidate."

Armistead explains in the email that the goal of the party has been to win all seven U.S. House of Representative seats (the GOP holds six of seven) and win certain targeted legislative seats now held by Democrats and certain seats at the local level. Armistead said the underlying goal is to strengthen the GOP at the local level to establish it as the majority party at every level. -- State GOP leader charges some in party with sabotage of efforts to win in November | AL.com

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Parker Griffih raised more than Gov. Bentley so far this month

AL.com reports: Gov. Robert Bentley continues to easily outpace his Democratic challenger, Parker Griffith, in campaign fundraising.

Both candidates filed reports today that covered money raised and spent from Oct. 1-10.

Bentley raised $225,070 from a long list of donors, bringing his total amount raised to $6.4 million since the fundraising period began in June 2013.

Griffith raised only $1,370 during the first two weeks during the period, not counting a $300,000 contribution from the Alabama Education Association. -- Gov. Robert Bentley adds to huge lead over Parker Griffith in campaign cash | AL.com

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Dr. Paul Hubbert, may he rest in peace

It was my honor and pleasure to work with Dr. Hubbert over the last 3 decades.

AL.com reports:
Paul Hubbert, who built a small, struggling and apolitical Alabama Education Association into a juggernaut of political power and influence during four-plus decades at its helm, is dead.

Hubbert, 78, was born on Christmas Day, 1935.

Hubbert's death came not quite three years after he stepped down as AEA's executive secretary, a decision he said he made after concluding his health would no longer allow him to do the job.

At the time of his death, Hubbert was battling ailments on several fronts -- and battling is the term to describe Hubbert's long fight to live.

In 1989, the then-54-year-old Hubbert underwent liver transplant surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The transplant saved and extended Hubbert's life. At the time of his death, he was one of the longest-surviving liver transplant patients in the world. -- Paul Hubbert, teacher lobbyist whose AEA shaped Alabama politics for decades, dead at 78 | AL.com

Some additional details from the Montgomery Advertiser: "The teachers of Alabama lost a true friend and a true champion," Reed said Tuesday night.

A cause of death was not immediately available. Hubbert had been fighting heart and kidney ailments.

The group also formed one of the first political action committees in the state, and influenced policy that went beyond classrooms and made the group a beacon to some and an enemy to others.

Survivors include Hubbert's wife, Ann; two daughters and several grandchildren. -- Paul Hubbert, longtime AEA head, dies at 78

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October 11, 2014

ALGOP sez drop in voter turnout means Voter ID is working

Alabama Political Reporter reports: Thursday, October 9, the Alabama Republican Party responded to the release of a report on Wednesday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicating the voter ID laws in Tennessee and Kansas may have suppressed voter turnout and affected minorities and young people disproportionately.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead said in a written statement in support of Alabama's voter ID law: "Alabama's voter ID law is designed to ensure that only legal votes are cast and counted. We believe one person should receive one vote. The state has promoted the law on television, radio, on billboards and in print ads to make sure every Alabama citizen is ready for implementation. The state even offers free IDs to those who do not have a valid photo ID." ...

The report claimed that voter ID laws have nothing to do with voter fraud and everything to do with lowering election turnout. The report compared the changes in voter turnouts from 2008 elections (before voter ID laws were in place) to 2012 elections (after voter ID laws were in place) in Kansas and Tennessee. Both states experienced a two percent drop in turnout from 2008 to 2012. Their results pointed towards the cost of getting a driver's license, in order to comply with voter ID laws, as a deterrent to citizens.

Chairman Armistead said, "If voter turnout dropped in Kansas and Tennessee after implementing a voter ID law, then that may be a good indication that the law is working and has curtailed fraudulent votes. The intended purpose of voter ID laws is to prevent fraud and hopefully that is what is happening." -- ALGOP Responds to GAO Report Questioning Photo ID Laws

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October 4, 2014

"Alabama political ad spending hits $26.8 million"

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Political campaigns in Alabama have spent at least $26.8 million on advertising this year, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State's Office.

The figures jumped significantly last month, as campaigns began emptying their wallets for the fall push toward the general election. According to campaign finance reports, political ad spending reached $4.7 million in September. That was nearly four times the spending reported in August, but still well below May's peak, when candidates spent over $11 million to secure victory in hotly-contested Republican primaries.

The total spending on ads this year is larger than all but nine state agencies received in the General Fund budget in fiscal year 2014, which ended on Tuesday. The sum is also very close to the total General Fund allocations that the state's district attorneys ($27.5 million) and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles ($27.2 million) received from the budget.

To date, the largest spender has been the Alabama Education Association, which has spent over $3.8 million on advertising this year. Gov. Robert Bentley's campaign has spent $2.8 million to date this year. Bentley's campaign reported spending $1.6 million on ads last month; AEA reported spending just $30,000 on advertising, though it spent $1.1 million overall in September. -- Alabama political ad spending hits $26.8 million

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October 1, 2014

Jeeferson County fires staffer who ran for office

AL.com reports: Jefferson County today fired Richard Finley, the County Commission staffer, who had been placed on leave after questions were raised about violation of a state law.

Commissioner George Bowman said today that Finley had "forfeited" his job.

"His leave of absence has now been turned into a forfeiture of employment," Bowman said.

AL.com reported Sunday that Finley, an aide to Bowman, qualified as a Libertarian for the District 1 seat. But, after qualifying, Finley apparently failed to follow the state law that requires he take unpaid leave from his government-based job. -- Jefferson County Commission aide fired after apparent violation of state law | AL.com

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