Crenshaw officials arrested on ethics violations

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Two Crenshaw County officials have been arrested on ethics violations stemming from an ongoing investigation in Etowah County involving improper discounts which were allegedly given by the Etowah Solid Waste Disposal Authority.

Crenshaw County Probate Judge Dwight D. Faulk, 55, of Honoraville and Crenshaw County Administrator Linda Williamson, 52, of Goshen, have been charged with violation of the state's ethics law as part of a state and federal investigation that a company they operate out of Luverne was given improper discounts from the Etowah Solid Waste Disposal Authority.

According to a press release from the State Attorney General's office, both Faulk and Williamson are charged with class B felonies. The Attorney General's statement alleges that Faulk and Williamson offered or gave a thing of value to a public official or member of the household of a public official for the purpose of influencing the official action of the public official. If convicted of the charges the two face a penalty of two to 20 years imprisonment. Faulk could also face removal from office if convicted.

Also according to the press release, the indictments are the result of a probe by the Attorney General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Alabama Examiners of Public Accounts into allegations of wrongdoing by Etowah County public officials.

According to an article in the April 25, 2000 issue of the Gadsden Times, the investigation of the Etowah Solid Waste Disposal Authority included recycling discounts given to companies, including Big Wheel which is the Luverne-based company operated by Faulk and Williamson, of at 50 percent off the regular dumping fee for dumping materials into the county construction and demolition (inert) landfill.

Brian McKee, the former administrator of the authority and his wife, Jennifer have also been charged with violating the state's ethics law. Brian McKee is charged with providing unauthorized discounts to specific customers of the authority and using his office for personal gain related to the discounts.

His wife's alleged crime involved one felony count of receiving a thing of value for the purpose of influencing the official action of her husband.

Jennifer was employed by Big Wheel.

In an article which ran in a recent edition of the Gadsden Times, Terry Wofford, superintendent of the Solid Waste Authority, is quoted as saying that Big Wheel is one of the authority's largest customers, doing between $8,000 and $10,000 per month of business with it. The article also states that in an audit of the authority released in September of last year, the state Examiners of Public Accounts said Big Wheel was one of two companies which received improper discounts of 50 percent during the period from Oct. 1, 1994 to Feb. 29, 2000 through a program the authority had authorized in 1995 for companies involved in recycling.

Faulk was quoted in the April 2000 article which appeared in the Gadsden Times as saying that he was not the owner of Big Wheel but worked with the company and "sort of guides everything in a sense."

He also said the firm was eligible for the discount and that the investigation "ain't nothing but a witch hunt."

Tuesday, Judge Faulk, speaking on Williamson's and his own behalf, said, "We haven't done anything wrong. Everything we have been charged with we have something to counter it in court. We are lucky to have the judicial system that we have in this country, which will give us the chance to answer these charges."

Faulk said that he does not deny employing McKee's wife. "It's hard to find good dependable people today," he said.

He went on to say that Mrs. McKee worked only on a commission basis for the first one-and-a-half years of her employment, working as a liaison getting recycling programs started in the schools.

He added that the company also sponsored sporting events and paper drives through programs at the schools and through organizations such as the Boy Scouts.

In a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon, Crenshaw County Chairman Ed Beasley said, "I have worked with Linda Williamson for seven years and I know her outstanding ethics and standards. Proof of that is that every penny in the county's offices are accounted for. Plus, we have one of the best audit reports in the state. I personally don't believe the accusations against her and Judge Faulk.

Judge Faulk is a very honest and ethical person.

I fully believe in his dignity and his integrity. I am sure that once these charges are heard in a court of law both Judge Faulk and Linda will be exonerated."

Both Faulk and Williamson turned themselves in to the Etowah Sheriff's Department Monday and were each released on $2,500 bond.