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Lanett discusses process to select next mayor

At their Monday meeting, the Lanett City Council discussed how they would go about selecting a new mayor. Jamie Heard acted as mayor pro tem.

Attorney Stanley Gray said that Heard was serving as mayor pro tem because of a resolution passed by the council on Nov. 2, 2020. He said that the position is rotated among the council members every 10 months. He explained how selecting a new mayor would work, saying the position would last until November 2025.

“For normal circumstances, it’s 2024,” he said. “But if you all recall, the governor extended for a year everyone’s position. So this vacancy will be filled until November 2025.”

Gray said the council has 60 days to select a new mayor.

“If the council does not make a selection within 60 days, then at that 60-day period, each of you are to submit names to the governor,” he said. “And then the governor, potentially, will select who the mayor is. If the governor does not act within 90s days of the date of the vacancy — the vacancy was Sept. 22 — then, if the governor does not act, then the matter will be referred to the probate judge of Chambers County for a special election.”

Gray said that if the council decides to select one of its own as mayor, they will have to declare that person’s district open.

“And that would be filled in a similar fashion to how the mayor was selected at another council meeting,” he said. “So this is something that the council can do as quickly as the next meeting, if that’s the wishes of the council. But it is something that the council needs to be clear and either go ahead and make a decision or decide that it’s going to submit matters to the governor.”

Gray said the council didn’t have to select only from among itself. He said that when candidates are presented to the city council, they’ll be able to vote on it.

On Wednesday, Sept. 22, attorney General Steve Marshall announced the conviction of former Lanett Mayor Jonathon Kyle McCoy for felony ethics violations, according to a press release from Marshall. McCoy pled guilty in Chambers County Circuit Court to two charges of using his official position or office for personal gain.

Pursuant to a plea agreement, McCoy admitted that he used his position as mayor to provide a city-owned Chevrolet Tahoe to a family member for a period of seven months, according to the press release. McCoy’s family member was not employed with the City of Lanett and had no government purpose in possessing the vehicle. McCoy’s unlawful actions resulted in his personal gain, which included savings on the cost of a replacement vehicle and insurance as well as money for fuel and maintenance, according to the press release.

McCoy further admitted to using his position as mayor to avoid paying for city utility services (gas, electric, water, sewage and garbage) on seven different accounts, according to the press release. Beginning at various times between June 2017 and April 2018, McCoy ceased paying utility bills. By Aug. 2019, McCoy owed more than $41,000 to the City of Lanett. At that time, McCoy directed a city employee to put a hold on these accounts, which resulted in McCoy no longer incurring minimum fees and late charges as well as his accounts being removed from the city’s “cut-off” list. McCoy paid the $41,232.84 balance seven months later in March 2020, but he did not pay any late charges or minimum fees for the period of time his accounts were on a hold, according to the press release from Marshall’s office. Pursuant to the plea agreement, McCoy agreed to pay those unpaid fees and charges, which equal $2,069, as restitution to the City of Lanett.

McCoy will pay another $12,124 in restitution to the city for money spent on personal items and gifts not related to city government, according to the press release. In total, McCoy will pay the city $14,193.45 in restitution.

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, McCoy changed his plea from not guilty to guilty and is seeking a pre-sentencing investigation. In the Tuesday filing in the office of Chambers County Circuit Clerk Lisa Burdette, McCoy’s attorney William L. “Bill” Smith made notification for the change of plea. The court was notified that the defendant was offering to plead guilty to counts one and two of the indictment against him. No mention was made of count three, which involved personal purchases made on a city account in an amount equal to or a portion of $643.84.

Chambers County Circuit Judge Steve Perryman set a sentencing hearing for Oct. 26 at 1 p.m. McCoy faces penalties of two to 20 years imprisonment and fines of up to $30,000 for each of the two convictions, which are class B felonies.

When he was first indicted in February, McCoy said the attorney general’s office and others were “trying to destroy his character,” and he “emphatically” denied any wrongdoing.