On Feb. 10, the Alabama Ethics Commission passed a motion citing the chairman of the Bayou La Batre Utilities Board (BLBUB) for committing “one minor violation of the Alabama Ethics Act.” Sylvia Raley, who has served on the board for over two decades, recently acknowledged the violation, but said she could not disclose specifics until legal ramifications were clarified.
In its motion, the commission suggested the charge can be handled administratively, but may be referred for review by the district attorney. Jay Ross, the attorney for BLBUB, did not return calls seeking comment.
The board has revenue of around $2 million annually and provides water and wastewater services for thousands of meters in and around Bayou La Batre. It also collects payments for the city and other utilities for gas, phone and trash services. The board recently accepted the resignation of former Executive Director Michael McClantoc, and the position currently remains open.
Complaints to the Alabama Ethics Commission are typically confidential unless they are referred for prosecution. Raley’s case was discussed in executive session and the commission withheld any details from its public comments, but according to two sources who are familiar with the charge, Raley was accused of authorizing the use of utility board funds to purchase a personal cell phone.
“I asked for an administrative hearing because I didn’t want to go to Montgomery,” Raley said of the charge this week. “I did get a letter that said there was an administrative minor violation that has to go back to [an ethics committee], who will decide if any fines will be involved. The way I understand it I may have a $25 fine. I want to fight it. I still don’t feel like I’m guilty of anything. But I’ve been here almost 25 years and if all they can get is one minor infraction, I’ll take it.”
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