Patterson case closed on minor ethics violation

Published 4:24 pm Wednesday, June 13, 2018

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

The Alabama Ethics Commission has agreed to an administrative resolution and closed the case of a minor violation of the Ethics Act by Chilton County Board of Education President Lori Patterson.

The decision was made on June 6.

Patterson posted a statement about the action to her Facebook page on June 13.

In the statement, Patterson said a salary schedule was approved for multiple transportation positions in 2017 after the board was told that there was not a 2016 salary schedule to compare it to.

“The schedule approved on that day was intended to be a master schedule of several positions and was not presented as a change of any kind,” Patterson said.

Patterson’s husband is employed in one of the positions listed in the salary schedule.

“It was later discovered in 2018 that the CCBOE had actually already approved a salary schedule for the same multiple positions under the previous financial leadership on September 2016. The missing 2016 salary information was discovered when research surrounding the alleged ethics violation was reported in 2018.”

Once the 2016 information was available it became evident that the 2017 schedule was a higher level of pay for several of the positions, including the one Patterson’s husband held. Alabama Code Title 36-25-9(c) states, “No member of any county or municipal agency, board, or commission shall vote or participate in any matter in which the member or family member of the member has any financial gain or interest.”

To avoid this conflict of interest, an elected official can abstain from the vote.

“Because the 2017 schedule was slightly higher in salary than the 2016 version for several positions, it was considered personal gain,” Patterson said. “As soon as it was brought to my attention, I agreed to pay back the difference in the two salary amounts — 2016 vs. 2017 —which was a total of $265.92 — $41 per month. To further clarify, I did not vote on the hire of my husband.”

In the statement, Patterson said the funds have been paid back and the Ethics Commission accepted this as an administrative resolution.

“This was an honest mistake as the board members and myself had trusted the financial leadership in 2017 that there was no previous information available when in actuality, there was,” Patterson said. “I apologize for any misunderstanding or problems this may have caused and I am appreciative the Ethics Board understood the unique situation regarding the unintentional development of two competing salary structures.”