Former Birmingham Mayor William Bell violated state ethics law during his 2017 mayoral campaign, the Alabama Ethics Commission announced Wednesday.
Bell’s attorney, Joe Espy, told AL.com that the violation was “minor” and pertained to an August 28 meeting Bell held with his staff in council chambers.
During that meeting, as BirminghamWatch initially reported, Bell instructed staffers how to campaign for him during their off-time, warning them that they would likely lose their jobs if his opponent, Randall Woodfin, was elected. (Woodfin would later defeat Bell for the office.)
“If you think that it’s just about William Bell, no, it’s about all of us in this room, about each and every one of us in this room” he said. “Because I guarantee you, while some may survive, the vast majority of you will not. I’m not trying to put fear, I’m just trying to tell you the realities of the situation.”
The meeting appeared to violate the state’s Fair Campaign Practices Act, which states that officials cannot use their office to influence the vote or political action of another person or to coerce an employee to do work for a campaign.
Birmingham activist Iva Williams filed an ethics complaint against Bell on September 8 over the meeting.
Espy told AL.com that the matter has been “resolved administratively” and that it has been “concluded.” The matter will be forwarded to District Attorney Mike Anderton before returning to the ethics commission, which may levy a fine against Bell.