Alabama attorney general sues state’s ethics commission

In its meeting Wednesday, the Alabama Ethics Commission voted there was cause  Rickey Stokes...
In its meeting Wednesday, the Alabama Ethics Commission voted there was cause Rickey Stokes violated the Alabama Ethics Acts and referred the complaint to the Alabama attorney general.(Source: WSFA 12 News)
Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 5:14 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has filed a lawsuit against the Alabama Ethics Commission seeking to have one of the commission’s recent advisory opinions overturned.

The lawsuit, filed Monday, involves decisions made in the 2021 ethics cases of former Montgomery Police Chief Ernest Finley and then-Chief of Operations Jennifer Reaves.

According to the suit, Marshall’s office says the Ethics Commission violated the Alabama Administrative Procedures Act by adopting a rule that states it does not have to disclose information or evidence to someone under investigation that could aid in their defense or clear them of any charges.

The suit adds that in adopting the rule, the commission violated the federal Brady rule, which requires such disclosures.

The AG’s office said the commission’s actions now undermine cases the commission may refer to the AG’s office for possible prosecution.

The lawsuit further claims that the commission has started withholding cases that would normally be referred to the AG’s office in response to being publicly questioned over the policy and that instead, the commission has begun imposing its own administrative fines.

In January, Marshall addressed the commission, saying an investigation into the 2021 ethics case of Finley and Reaves found “demonstratively false evidence” and “material misrepresentations of fact.”

Instead of approving the commission’s resolution, Marshall cleared them both of any wrongdoing and took the rare step of stripping the commission’s then-general counsel and a senior investigator from representing the state in legal matters.

The Alabama Ethics Commission, reached for comment on the AG’s lawsuit, released a statement saying it disagrees with the AG but welcomes a court ruling on the matter. The statement reads:

“We disagree with the AG’s analysis and conclusions because the Opinion accurately reflects existing case law on the issue, and the Commission is bound by that precedent.  As stated by the Commission publicly when they approved the Advisory Opinion, however, the Commission welcomes a court of competent jurisdiction to review these issues in light of the applicable statutory provisions and existing case law and will abide by whatever direction that Court gives us.”

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