Taylor applauds court’s ruling

Published 5:18 pm Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has overturned a lower court that decided Alabama’s ethics law was unconstitutionally vague.

Less than a week after calls for educators to be excluded from the reach of the state’s ethics law, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals handed down a decision Friday upholding the ethics law against a constitutional challenge by a former employee of Bishop State Community College accused of financial aid fraud.

Earlier this year, a Mobile County judge dismissed an ethics charge against former Bishop State Community College women’s basketball coach Elston Turner, ruling the law is too broad. Turner is accused of using his position to help his wife obtain public financial aid she wasn’t eligible to receive, in violation of a provision of the ethics law that makes it a crime for public officials and employees in Alabama to use their official position for personal gain or their family members’ gain.

The charges stem from a massive financial aid scam at the two-year college in Mobile, which involved the arrest of 28 people in 2007. According to the Mobile Press-Register, they were accused of collectively stealing more than $200,000 in financial aid and other monies from the Mobile school.

Turner claims it’s invalid because it doesn’t require intent to commit a crime. A lower court sided with Turner’s defense in ruling against the law.

But the appeals court on Friday sent the case against back to Mobile, reversing the earlier decision.

Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, who chairs the Senate’s ethics and elections committee, hailed the decision as an example of why the ethics law applies to all public officials and employees.

“This case is a textbook example of why we need the ethics law and why it applies to all public officials and employees,” Taylor said. “The law applies to all public servants because we all hold positions of authority and public trust.”