Ever since he was a boy, laying to rest deceased He-Man action figures in pencil boxes, Mobile City Councilman C.J. Small wanted to be a funeral director. He even once wrote a school report about funeral services.
“I looked at funeral services as a ministry,” he said. “Getting to help people bear the loads through the worse part of their lives is a blessing.”
His foray into politics and a seat on the Mobile City Council came later, although, he said, he intended to pursue public office at some point in his career.
Last month, Small went before the Mobile Planning Commission for approval of an expansion to Small’s Mortuary that would allow for the addition of a repast center on the property. While his application was approved, some planning commission decisions can be appealed to the City Council. If Small’s Mortuary were ever subject to such an action, Small said he would recuse himself from any discussion or vote.
But in other votes involving funeral homes, Small said he could be impartial because he doesn’t see those businesses as competition.
“I don’t have competitors,” he said. “I have colleagues.”
Small also owns a real estate venture called Small’s Enterprises and noted Small’s Mortuary has branches in Theodore and Fairhope. He said there are plans to open a second location in Baldwin County.
As a public official, Small’s business assets are disclosed annually to the state’s Ethics Commission on a Statement of Economic Interest. A provision of the state’s ethics law, the statements are required of any elected or appointed official, candidate for office and some public employees.
In addition to information about private employment and household income, the statements also disclose the names of immediate family members and information regarding personal indebtedness. The statements do not include their salaries as elected officials.
The statements, or lack thereof, are cited occasionally in newsworthy events. In an ongoing public corruption case against Mobile County License Commissioner Kim Hastie, federal prosecutors claim the defendant and her husband filed two false statements to the ethics commission in 2009 and 2010, deliberately concealing $38,400 in income from a land transaction.
Bayou la Batre City Councilwoman Ida Mae Coleman was disqualified from the city’s mayoral contest in 2013 for failure to file her SOEI as a candidate or as a councilperson. Last year, a national accrediting organization cited Alabama State University’s Board of Trustees for multiple conflicts of interest. Among other complaints was that several trustees did not fully disclose their personal interests in on their SOEIs.
Upon submission, the statements become a matter of public record. Publicly searchable on the ethics commission’s website, the individual statements are intended to serve as a disclosure to avoid conflicts of interest and prevent officials from personally gaining from their public position.
Corroborating information and further detail may be available on publicly searchable databases at the Alabama Secretary of State’s website and at county probate offices.
In an effort to consolidate the information and present it in a single location, Lagniappe has collected the statements of economic interest for all office holders in Mobile and Baldwin counties. Partially printed below, a full spreadsheet, which will updated as new statements are filed, accompanies this headline on lagniappemobile.com.
Compiled Statements of Economic Interest
Scroll right for additional information.
Dale Liesch, Jason Johnson, Alyson Stokes and Gabriel Tynes contributed to this report.