By John Mullen
ORANGE BEACH — Recusal or not, Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon believes Angie Swiger should resign from her position on the Baldwin County School Board.
Swiger has applied for one of the five spots on the new Gulf Shores School Board as the city prepares to form a school system independent of the county.
“The minute she applied for the Gulf Shores position she should have resigned from the Baldwin County Board,” Kennon said. “Again, I’m at a loss for words as to why this would even be a question.” Elberta Mayor Jim Hamby is also calling on Swiger to resign.
Upcoming are sensitive split negotiations between the Baldwin County School Board and the new system. At stake, officials familiar with school splits say, is everything — books, buses, desks and all manner of academic- and facility-related assets.
“Since I have applied for a position on the Gulf Shores City School Board, I will recuse myself from any legal discussions involving the split or the negotiations if it’s appropriate to do so,” Swiger said in an email to media outlets. “My service on the board has always been based on honesty and transparency and I would never allow my participation to be legally or ethically questioned by creating a conflict of interest.”
Kennon said Swiger being on the Baldwin County board puts her in a unique position. A recusal by itself, he said, is not enough.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “Recusing herself has nothing to do with being privy to information. That’s my issue. How do you be an applicant for one board, sit on the other board that is negotiating with the other board you’re trying to get on and think there’s not information being shared? I just think it’s unethical to even consider it.”
Swiger is in her second term representing the southernmost district, encompassing Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Elberta, Fort Morgan, Ono Island and other incorporated areas. She feels she owes it to the people who put her in office to continue to represent their interests.
“Whether I am selected for the new board or not, the communities of Elberta and Orange Beach still need strong representation,” Swiger said. “For more than three years, I have worked very hard to help the town of Elberta realize their dream of becoming their own feeder pattern; and Orange Beach will be transitioning to a feeder pattern as well. Those transitions can be difficult and both communities still need a strong voice. Whether that voice is mine or not is yet to be determined.”
Earlier this month the Baldwin County Board of Education asked for an attorney general’s opinion on Swiger’s status. The county is asking if a board member can legally live in a city school district and serve on a county school board. There’s no timetable on when the county might receive an answer.
“This isn’t about me, and it isn’t about Tony Kennon or Jim Hamby,” Swiger said. “It’s about the children of Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Elberta, and I won’t be pressured into any action that isn’t in the best interest of those children. The worst thing I can do is leave the children and families of these communities without representation. They elected me twice to do a job for them and I’m going to do it.”
If Swiger resigns or is appointed to the Gulf Shores board, the Baldwin County board would have 30 days to name her replacement.
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