State Rep. Napoleon Bracy, Jr. was cleared by the Alabama Ethics Commission Sept. 8, 2014 after an investigation into complaints against him turned up no legal issues.
The investigation was prompted by a letter written by his opponent in the House District 98 race, alleging Bracy had been attempting to use his position at Austal Shipbuilding to unethically gain voters.
“Please be advised that we have concluded our preliminary inquiry into the allegations recently filed against you. We found no indication that the law had been violated and are, therefore, closing our file in the matter,” Ethics Commission General Counsel Hugh Evans wrote in the Sept. 8 letter to Bracy.
Bracy has maintained the complaint was simply an effort by his political opponent to cause harm to his reputation and that it had no merit.
Editor’s note: This article was updated May 22, 2015 to accurately reflect the culmination of the investigation. Lagniappe had unintentionally not written about the conclusion of the investigation and when that was brought to our attention, the editors felt it only fair it be included in the article. The original Aug. 6, 2014 article appears below.
State Rep. Napoleon Bracy, Jr. is currently under investigation by the State of Alabama Ethics Commission because fliers and websites for job fairs he hosted for his employer Austal USA also mentioned his political title.
According to a complaint letter written to the ethics commission by former House District 98 candidate Darren Flott, Bracy has been attempting to woo voters in exchange for positions at Austal.
Flott wrote in his letter that Bracy, who serves as the workforce outreach coordinator at Austal, uses job fairs and his Facebook page to link his position at Austal with his political position. Bracy, however, says he’s done nothing wrong.
“I’m hired to do a job for Austal and part of my job is to go out and speak to people about employment in underserved areas,” Bracy said. “I go out and speak to people all the time, just about every day, about employment opportunities. I go to many different states and many different communities. It’s just a part of my job.”
In a public post on Bracy’s Facebook page dated July 21, he wrote, “I’m hosting 4 job fair seminars this week in the community. We are hiring at least 100 people.”
According to Austal Vice President of Human Resources Don Keeler, Austal is currently recruiting about 100 new apprentices for their apprenticeship programs, which he called a “gateway” to other jobs and opportunities, and has been using job fairs for the last few years as an avenue to increase awareness, though there is no guarantee of employment.
“That’s Napoleon’s job,” Keeler said. “That’s what he does for Austal. They are entirely hosted by Austal. They are not a political event. The organizations are multistate and are helping us set up venues where people can come look at job opportunities at Austal. We’ve advertised them so we can increase participation … it’s clearly part of his job description and that’s what is displayed on the fliers we’ve distributed.”
Flott said he learned of Bracy’s actions through the fliers, social media and individuals in the community.
“Fliers were distributed and seminars were held in District 98 only,” Flott said. “It appears he is trying to make people think he can offer them positions at Austal.”
Flott provided Lagniappe with two different fliers, one with job fair dates in January and one with dates in July. Bracy’s name, Austal position and state representative title are not printed on the January flier. In addition, only one location in Bay Minette appears to be located outside District 98.
The July flier includes Bracy’s name, Austal position and state representative title. All job fair locations listed are located in District 98, according to Flott.
According to Keeler, Bracy has hosted job fairs in Mississippi, Florida, Mobile, Bayou la Batre and Bay Minette among other locations.
“He’s been in Fred Richardson’s district,” he said.
Austal created the distributed fliers themselves and have no objection to Bracy’s state representative title being printed on them, Austal Communication and Marketing Coordinator Michelle Bowden said.
Bracy also said he does not feel there is any ethical violation with having his state representative title on the fliers.
“It doesn’t change who I am,” Bracy said. “Twenty four hours a day, I’m Representative Bracy. Whether I’m at home with my kids or I’m at work here at Austal or I’m sitting at my church, it doesn’t change who I am. I personally benefit nothing from people being employed here. I’m just trying to do my job and trying to make sure people have an opportunity.”
Flott submitted his complaint on July 24 and received a response from Hugh Evans, general counsel for the State of Alabama Ethics Commission, dated July 28, according to a letter from the commission.
In his response letter to Flott, Evans wrote the case would be assigned to a special agent to conduct an investigation into the complaint.
“They should be getting in contact with me as soon as possible to further investigate these allegations,” Flott said.
Evans told Lagniappe he is unable to comment on the matter, as the case is pending. Austal has not been contacted by the state nor have they received any information that there is an ethics complaint, Keeler said.
“I do a job here and I try to do my job to the best of my ability,” Bracy said. “I think for anybody to say that something is unethical about trying to make sure poor people and people from underserved areas have an opportunity to learn more about a company like Austal, with hopes of being employed here and take care of their families, I think it’s just sad someone would stoop to that type of level.”
Flott and Bracy have a history of conflict, the most recent being when Bracy questioned Flott’s candidacy as a Democrat in 2014.
Flott was disqualified from the state House of Representatives Democratic primary race against Bracy when he failed to obtain clearance from the Democratic Party after running as a write-in candidate for the previous four years.
During the 2010 primary, Bracy allegedly had Flott jailed for accusations of harassment. Flott was acquitted in Mobile County Court.
Flott will run as an independent candidate against Bracy in the general election Nov. 4.