Thomas fined $1K by ethics commission

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 5, 2004

The Alabama State Ethics Commission fined State Senator James Thomas $1,000 for violating an Ethics Commission opinion.

Thomas and the commissions entered into an administrative resolution through which he will repay the Wilcox County School System $9,000 in restitution.

The Wilcox County High School principal did not take leave time from the high school while he was getting paid by the state to attend legislative sessions.

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“You can’t be in two places at one time,” Ethics Commission Director Jim Sumner said. “(You can’t) be fully compensated for both.”

The Ethics Commission requires public employees to take leave for their regular jobs while serving as public officials. Basically, according to ethics rules, Thomas should have taken leave while he was in Montgomery.

“He did not do that,” Sumner said. “There was no leave time taken for his services.”

Without special sessions, legislators serve 30 days over a 15-week period in a session.

They also have about 15 days of committee work.

“Putting together the documents regarding the legislative schedule, it was determined that the value of those days was $9,000,” Sumner said.

According to the AP, the commission agreed 5-0 to let him settle what the commissioners called a minor violation.

The $1,000 fine is the maximum the commission can levy.

Sumner said a citizen of Wilcox County brought the violation to the commission’s attention.

Thomas did not return phone messages left at the school and at his home.

The AP reported that the commission found probable cause that State Sen. Sundra Escott, D-Birmingham, may have violated state ethics laws.

They asked the state attorney general to investigate.

Sumner told the AP that in 2001 Escott directed $107,000 in discretionary money to the outreach program at Jefferson State Community College.

Allegedly, she then sent a letter to the college that $35,000 of that go to a program that employed her brother and sister.

According to the AP, the program received the money.