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Failure to File Statement of Economic Interest Results in Ethics Complaint

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—An ethics complaint against the Democrat candidate for Senate District 13, has been filed with the State’s ethic commission and forwarded to the Secretary of State. If the allegations against Senate hopeful Darrell Turner are true, he is most likely not a legitimate candidate to represent the district.

Turner is accused of not filing his Statement of Economic Interest in accordance with state law. Alabama Code 36-25-14 states that a candidate must file their Statement of Economic Interest, “shall” file before April, in this case April 2014. However, state records show that Turner did not file his Statement of Economic Interest until much later on September 2, 2014.

“The Ethics Law requires that when a person files the papers to qualify for a candidate, they file the Statement of Economic Interest (SEI), that deals with the prior year, the year before. And that statement is adopted, designed to shed transparency on who candidates are, and their income…,” stated David N. Cutchen, the man who filed the complaint against Turner.

Cutchen said that he filed the complaint because he believes that the law applies to everyone, without exception: “You reach a point where you ask plainly, does the law apply to all of us? How can we elect those that want to make the laws when they won’t follow the laws?”

Section 36-25-14(a) states “A statement of economic interests shall be completed and filed in accordance with this chapter with the commission no later than April 30 of each year covering the period of the preceding calendar year by each of the following.”

“This is a basic requirement to be placed on the ballot,” said Cutchen. He added, “It’s hard to think that it’s ignorance, because both political parties, even on their websites, talk to candidates, if you’re going to file, you need to file an SEI. It’s not something hidden or a surprise or anything, it’s out there for anybody who is involved in the process to know about.”

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In fact, Turner did file a statement of economic interests in 2013, when he ran as a delegate to the Democratic Convention. “He was aware of the process but failed to follow the procedures,” said Cutchen.

Cutchen, who is an attorney with Forstman & Cutchen, LLP, said that if Turner’s opponent, Republican incumbent Senator Gerald Dial, had ignored his responsibility in filing his statement of economic interests in accordance to the law, then he would have filed a complaint against him.

Cutchen says that the Ethics Commission referred the matter to the Secretary of State. Cutter, said that he received a letter from Secretary Bennet saying that Turner’s name was already on the ballot for November and that the only course of action would be a legal remedy after the elections are held.

According to Sec. Jim Bennett’s response there was nothing that he could do now that Turner’s name is already on the ballot.

Cutchen believes that Turner is on the ballot illegally, but he has no choice now but to wait for the results of the election.

Senator Dial, Mr. Turner and Mr. Bennett were not available for comment.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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