When trying to change the pardons and parole process, the swamp pushes back
Attempts to reshape the process in which pardons and paroles are handed out in Alabama has run into resistance from the people who handle pardons and paroles.
The folks doing the job did such a good job at selecting inmates for release and monitoring them after the fact that a recent parolee, Jimmy O’Neal, killed three people, including a seven-year-old boy, in Marshall County.
That is why Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) and State Representative Connie Rowe (R-Jasper) have introduced legislation to rework the current process in order to have the governor appoint the board’s director and codify restriction on the release of violent offenders to mandate that they serve 85 percent of their term or at least 15 years of their sentence.
Their efforts are supported by the Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and Governor Kay Ivey, with Marshall telling AL.com in April, “The current statutory structure of our board makes them accountable to no one.”
Obviously, the fans of the status quo are pushing back. The current board says that all of these changes are unnecessary and the current framework is fine.
That seems like a reasonable position for those in that position to hold, they are completely free to believe the new law is an over-correction and over-reaction. Much like in Washington, D.C., people get upset when someone tries to upset the apple cart. Also, like in D.C., sometimes those people cross the line to protect what they believe is theirs.
The executive director of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, Eddie Cook, responded to potential changes in the law by suggesting that Pardons and Paroles’ employees should go to the state house and let their voice be heard.
In itself, that would be fine, but how he did it and what he suggested is not fine by any stretch of the imagination. Cook told employees, using his paroles.alabama.gov e-mail address that they should resist this law. He also told them if they wanted to head to Montgomery to give Ward and Rowe a piece of their mind that they were authorized to utilize their state-issued vehicles to do so.
His e-mail follows:
This is all a pretty clear violation of AL Code § 17-17-5 (2012):
(c) Any person who is in the employment of the State of Alabama, a county, a city, a local school board, the State Board of Education or any other governmental agency, shall be on approved leave to engage in political action or the person shall be on personal time before or after work and on holidays. It shall be unlawful for any officer or employee to solicit any type of political campaign contributions from other employees who work for the officer or employee in a subordinate capacity. It shall also be unlawful for any officer or employee to coerce or attempt to coerce any subordinate employee to work in any capacity in any political campaign or cause. Any person who violates this section shall be guilty of the crime of trading in public office and upon conviction thereof, shall be fined or sentenced, or both, as provided by Section 13A-10-63.
The inappropriate politicking of any kind on the state dime is wrong, specifically calling on employees to do so and allowing them to use state vehicles for that purpose is unacceptable and warrants further investigation.