A glitch in an automated call system had Mobile County residents receiving calls about severe weather at all hours last night. However, County Commission President Jerry Carl — whose voice is featured on the recording — was quick to blame his political opponents.
On the recording, Carl can be heard warning residents about the weather system that caused widespread damage, injuries and even deaths in some areas of the Gulf Coast Feb. 23-24.However, some residents are said to have received calls well after the threat of severe weather had passed. One resident, who didn’t wish to be named, said he received two calls — one in the late afternoon and one around 2 a.m. He said “both came from the same 800 number.”
Others have pointed out the calls on Carl’s commission Facebook page.
Mobile County Public Affairs Director Nancy Johnson told Lagniappe the late calls were the result of a glitch within CodeRED, a company the Mobile County Commission contracts with to issue mass messages or “robocalls” to residents.
Johnson said those messages are authorized and handled through her department and the mistake was “utterly unanticipated.”
“There were some glitches that occurred outside our area, and the result was the phone calls — the robocalls — continued into the night,” Johnson said.
A brief press release from Mobile County was released through Johnson’s office around 2 p.m. on Wednesday.
“Using a new and untested notification system yesterday, Mobile County sent out a weather alert that unintentionally sent out phone messages late into the night,” the release reads. “The County apologizes for those who were disturbed by the late calls. Technicians are currently working to identify problems with the system.”
However, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Carl called into the Uncle Henry Show on AM 710 in response to listeners complaining about the late-night phone calls. Though he said at the time he couldn’t confirm it, Carl spent much of the four-minute segment blaming the calls on the campaign of his political opponent, Rep. Margie Wilcox.
“Now I’ve not confirmed it, but it looks like someone has recorded it and taken it and called people all night long just aggravate them, wake them up and make them think it’s me,” Carl said on the airwaves. “So they’ve taken something positive and good, which is trying to alert people and save lives, and have twisted it. It fits the rest of this campaign very well.”
Carl is facing Wilcox in the March 1 GOP primary for the District 3 seat on the Mobile County Commission — a race that has been far from cordial. He went on to say “the person running [Wilcox’s campaign] is famous for making midnight robocalls.”
A review of Fair Campaign Practice Act filings shows that Wilcox’s campaign has employed Strategy Inc. as a political consultant since June 24, 2015. Strategy is owned and operated by Jon Gray, who has also communicated directly with Lagniappe about the Wilcox campaign.
Though Carl never mentioned Gray by name on the air, Gray took issue with his comments.
“I was accused of committing a felony by a sitting county commissioner who’s the president of the commission. I don’t have any reason why I would do that,” Gray said. “Everything that’s been said about him is documented, but to call in to a radio station and offhandedly accuse someone of committing a felony creates great liability for him and the county, and at a minimum, he owes an apology.”
While Gray did defend his business, he said he wasn’t authorized to speak on behalf of the Wilcox campaign. Wilcox herself has also declined several opportunities to be interviewed by this publication.
While still on the air, Carl said, “If it turns out to be our system, I’ll be the first one to apologize,” and Wednesday evening, he sent following statement to Lagniappe.
“Frankly, I’ve been attacked with lies for weeks by the other side, and when a robo call goes out at 11 p.m. that I didn’t authorize, my first reaction was to think its the next attack from my opponent,” Carl said. “I apologize for the confusion.”
Updated at 7 p.m., Feb. 24, at add a statement from County Commissioner Jerry Carl.