By Erica Thomas, managing editor, and Scott Buttram, publisher
TRUSSVILLE — The Alabama Ethics Commission dismissed a matter that the Trussville Redevelopment Authority (TRA) brought to its attention last year.
In May of 2019, the attorney for the Trussville Redevelopment Authority (TRA) contacted the Alabama Ethics Commission about a possible violation by a former member of the TRA following questions raised during the May 7 meeting, according to a written statement from Rick Stotser, of Massey, Stotser & Nichols:
At the Tuesday, May 7, 2019, regularly scheduled board meeting of the Trussville Redevelopment Authority (TRA) a question was raised regarding the TRA’s engagement of a real estate consultant which occurred in June 2018. Prior to entering into the contract, the matter had been subjected to review by the TRA’s legal counsel. Its legal counsel determined statutory authority existed for the TRA to engage a real estate consultant. Following the question raised at the May 7th meeting, the TRA’s legal counsel conducted another review. It was then determined that a potential issue may have existed- unbeknownst to the Board or the consultant. The TRA’s board instructed its legal counsel to contact the Alabama Ethics Commission on May 8th to bring this issue to its attention. Additionally, out of an abundance of caution, the TRA’s board and the consultant mutually agreed to cancel the consultant’s contract pending guidance from the Ethics Commission. The Ethics Commission is currently reviewing the matter. Once the Ethics Commission has completed its review, the TRA will evaluate the Commission’s findings to determine how it should proceed. All parties stand ready to assist the Commission in its review of the potential issue. – Rick Stotser
Former board member, Kevin Sargent, resigned from the TRA and was contracted by the authority to handle real estate matters. According to the meeting records from June 19, 2018, Sargent resigned from TRA and signed a contract with the board on the same night.
The “Revolving Door” portion of the Alabama Ethics Law states that no one serving on a public board can work for or contract with the board on which they served for a two year period.
REVOLVING DOOR – Section 36-25-13(c)
“(c) No public official, director, assistant director, department or division chief,
purchasing or procurement agent having the authority to make purchases, or any
person who participates in the negotiation or approval of contracts, grants, or
awards or any person who negotiates or approves contracts, grants, or awards shall
enter into, solicit, or negotiate a contract, grant, or award with the governmental
agency of which the person was a member or employee for a period of two years
after he or she leaves the membership or employment of such governmental
According to a statement from TRA in March 2020, after the matter was brought to the attention of the Ethics Commission, no violation was found.
“The Board of Directors of the Trussville Redevelopment Authority (“TRA”) received a response from the Alabama Ethics Commission concerning the TRA’s letter requesting clarification on the role of a consultant of the Board,” the statement said. “After review of the pertinent facts, the Ethics Commission found no probable cause of any violation of the Ethics Act. Therefore, this matter has been dismissed.”
TRA declined to provide a copy of the letter sent to the Alabama Ethics Commission, but the Ethics Commission’s letter to TRA states:
“The complaint which you filed against Kevin Sargent has been investigated by Commission investigator Brian Baker. The results of that investigation were presented to the members of the Alabama Ethics Commission at their meeting held February 5, 2020. The Commission concluded, upon review of the evidence from the investigation, that there was not probable cause to believe that Kevin Sargent committed a violation of the Alabama Ethics Act. Accordingly, your complaint has been dismissed. Should you provide any additional information that would warrant a reopening of this case, a new investigation would be conducted.” – Thomas B. Albritton
Director of the Alabama Ethics Commission Thomas Albritton told The Trussville Tribune he cannot comment on the specifics of the case.
“I’m prohibited from doing that,” said Albritton. “All I can tell you is that the letter speaks for itself and that the case was dismissed.”
The TRA Board’s statement continued with acknowledgment of the Ethics Commission and Kevin Sargent.
“The Board thanks the Ethics Commission for their review of this matter and Kevin Sargent for his cooperation through all aspects of this review,” the statement continued. “The Board looks forward to continuing to achieve its stated goal of assisting in the growth of the downtown area of the city of Trussville.”
The TRA is a separately incorporated body charged with revitalization and development of the downtown business district.