White Hall mayor guilty, must resign office
WHITE HALL, AL (WSFA) - Alabama Attorney General Troy King announced Monday the conviction of White Hall Mayor John Jackson for violating the state ethics law.
Jackson deposited a check intended for the town into his personal account. He pleaded guilty Monday morning in Lowndes County Circuit Court.
Jackson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor violation, but as part of his plea agreement he must resign his office within 72 hours and must not qualify to run for any public office within the next two years. He is also required to pay $43,609 in restitution to the town of White Hall.
The court will consider the State's recommendation for a 12 month sentence in December.
Jackson's attorney, Senator Hank Sanders issued the following statement:
"Mayor Jackson entered into a plea agreement, and the Attorney General's office dropped two felony charges. He plead guilty to a misdemeanor. He plead guilty to unintentional use of his office for personal gain.
Essentially what happened is, the mayor in an effort to try to get some industry there (sic). He used some of his own money to help with the process, and when the property was sold, instead of the money going back to the city, and then the city paying him back, the mayor took what he loaned the city plus interest. All he was trying to do was do what was right, but he didn't follow all the legal rules. That's why he pled guilty to a misdemeanor. The mayor will resign from office within the next 72 hours and not run again for two years."
One local political scientist says the conviction could actually help Jackson in the long run.
"If he is perceived in Lowndes county as being penalized, being punished for penalized for helping a community that really needed help, that might do him good politically," explained Brad Moody, a professor at Auburn Montgomery.
The mayor's conviction caps a busy month in the court system for public officials in Lowndes County.
As Jackson awaits sentencing, Sheriff Chip Williams and Hayneville Police Chief Kelvin Mitchell face charges of their own--each claiming to be victim of harassment and threats by the other.
"We are much more interested in how we are directly financially affected by what public officials do [...] than we are about the ethics of our public officials. We don't like to admit that, but that's really the case," Moody said.
White Hall's Town Council President, Elizabeth Davis, will assume the role of interim mayor when Jackson resigns.
The council will then name a replacement. If they do not fill the vacancy within 60 days, Governor Bob Riley has the ability to appoint a successor.
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