Alabama governor candidate Stacy George filed an ethics complaint against Birmingham Mayor William Bell today, alleging that Bell covered up the Confederate monument at Linn Park in Birmingham for political reasons.
Bell is seeking reelection in the Birmingham mayor’s race on Tuesday.
George calculated that materials and labor to cover the Confederate Soldiers & Sailors Monument cost the city about $1,400.
“This was done with taxpayer money one week before the city election for mayor and council,” George wrote in the complaint.
April Odom, Bell’s spokesperson, issued a statement in response to the complaint.
“I think we all know what partisan politics are being played here but Birmingham will not be dragged into them,” Odom said.
The mayor’s office did not immediately know the cost of the plywood and labor.
Also today, Attorney General Steve Marshall filed a lawsuit against Bell and the city of Birmingham, alleging that covering the monument violates a new state law against removing or altering historic monuments in place 40 years or more on public property. The Confederate Soldiers & Sailors Monument was dedicated in 1905.
Bell said placement of the cover does not violate the new state law. He said the cover is for protection and does not touch or alter the monument.
Bell ordered the monument covered on Tuesday. That was after Birmingham City Council President Johnathan Austin asked Bell to remove it in defiance of the new state law. Bell said the city should not break the law but should challenge it in court to get clarification on the city’s authority over its parks.
Talk about removing the monument is not new.
Two years ago, the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board unanimously approved a resolution to research the removal of the Confederate monument. A nonprofit organization called Save our South filed a lawsuit to keep the monument in place.
Austin renewed the call for its removal after the violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend. White supremacists marched in opposition to the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from a city park. An Ohio man is charged with murder for driving his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman.
George said he supports Marshall’s lawsuit. He also said he intends to contact Gov. Kay Ivey and ask her to issue an executive order to have the covering around the monument removed. George says he has volunteers to do the job and would donate the materials to a homeless shelter.
George, a state corrections officer and former Morgan County commissioner, is running for the Republican nomination for governor next year. He ran unsuccessfully against Gov. Robert Bentley in 2014.
George also filed numerous ethics complaints against Bentley.
George said he would support erecting more monuments to civil rights leaders and “foot soldiers” on public property, as opposed to removing Confederate monuments. He kicked off his campaign for governor by running across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.
George’s middle name is Lee, named after Robert E. Lee. He said his grandfather was also named after the Confederate general.
“It’s kind of personal to me, too,” George said.