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Details scarce in Lumpkin ethics case

Orrville Mayor Louvenia Lumpkin was the subject of an Alabama Ethics Commission hearing Wednesday, the result of a complaint filed regarding a home left to the city by a deceased residence.

Details in the case are scarce, however, as Ethics Commission hearings are largely governed by the same rules as grand jury testimony.

The Times-Journal anonymously received a letter from the Ethics Commission setting the date for Lumpkin’s hearing, which included a breakdown of the allegations against Lumpkin.

According to the anonymous tipster, an Orrville resident gifted his or her home to the city with the intention of the city selling the property in order to raise funds.

According to the tipster, the house was never declared surplus property or set for bidding, instead Lumpkin allowed her mother-in-law to live in the home – mother of Orrville City Councilman William Lumpkin – with the city paying utility costs.

After the death of William Lumpkin’s mother, the tipster claimed the house was purchased by the Lumpkin family for roughly $30,000.

For her part, Louvenia Lumpkin flatly denied the allegations, which are not available to the public, according to Alabama Ethics Commission Executive Director Thomas Albritton.

The commission, which heard the details of the case in a closed executive session, eventually referred the allegations to Dallas County District Attorney Michael Jackson, who will be tasked with determining whether or not to prosecute the case.

“Our commission is a probable cause board only,” said Albritton in an email Thursday. “[W]hich means that our burden of proof is much lower than what a prosecutor is required to use when determining whether to prosecute a case.”

Despite that decision, the allegations and evidence in the case remains off limits.

For his part, attorney Prince Chestnut, who is representing Lumpkin, said he “cannot confirm or deny” the allegations made by the anonymous tipster.

“I don’t want to say anything that might compromise an ongoing investigation that may be occurring,” Chestnut said.

Chestnut noted that the commission’s task is simply to review complaints and decide how they move forward – the commission can simply dismiss a complaint if there is inadequate evidence, can resolve issues internally via fines or other recourse or, when there is evidence that an ethics violation may have occurred, can refer the case to the Alabama Attorney General’s Office or the local District Attorney’s office.

Chestnut believes the complaint stems from “some small town things going on.”

“I believe there are people who may want to be in charge but aren’t in charge because they can’t win at the ballot box,” Chestnut said.

For his part, Jackson said he has not yet received anything from the Ethics Commission regarding the Lumpkin case.