Trussville Mayor Gene Melton surrounded by multiple ethics questions, rebukes opportunity to address them

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Trussville Mayor Gene Melton has been elected five times, beginning in 1996. While some that this is too long and that the city needs to move forward, Melton believes he deserves yet another term.

This year, Melton has drawn two opponents, current City Council President Anthony Montalto and fellow City Council member Buddy Choat.

In an unusual move, local residents have also started the Take Back Trussville movement, which endorses neither of Melton’s opponents but makes clear their goal is to move the city beyond another Melton mayorship. The founder of the movement, Butch Cole, spoke to Alabama Today after its launch and made clear the fact the group, and himself, wanted a new mayor, saying, “20 years is too long for anyone to be in office.”

Last week, Alabama Today spoke to Melton about the race and his opponents, and pointed out a number of errors on his Statement of Economic Interests made from 2011 forward.

Speaking about his campaign, Melton emphasized that he was born and raised in the area and that a lot of people in Trussville not only know him, but also know about his history in law enforcement. He stressed the strides in improving education, infrastructure and even the certification of local first responders that have occurred on his watch as ways he has been successful.

As for his opponents, Mayor Melton said: “I take the high road, I’m not going to go out there and bash them. I’m running on my record and experience.”

Today however, one can only hope he’s taking a break from campaigning and his mayoral duties to address errors on his ethics reports posed by Alabama Today last week. During our interview we had the opportunity to ask Melton about a number of inconsistencies, missing data and wrong information reported in his ethics reports throughout the last five years.

Melton has several discrepancies on income and assets on multiple reports filed over a five-year period. Reports Melton noted he personally filled out and filed.

The reports in question are his Statement of Economic Interests,” legally mandated by the Alabama Ethics Commission. The commission’s website cites the appropriate state statutes that cover false and incorrect filings on these statements saying:

(e) A person who intentionally violates any financial disclosure filing requirement of this chapter shall be subject to administrative fines imposed by the commission, or shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, or both.

Any person who unintentionally neglects to include any information relating to the financial disclosure filing requirements of this chapter shall have 90 days to file an amended statement of economic interests without penalty.

According to his Statement of Economic Interest, Melton claimed he made less than $1,000 as mayor in 2013, a job that pays $60,000 per year and will increase to $75,600 next term.  When asked about it, he said, “That had to be a typo or error on my part. I didn’t take a cut in pay and I don’t recall not cashing my checks.”

He also noted that, “During all this time, I draw state retirement.”

Melton also owns a property at the Country Club Estates, which features properties on Logan Martin Lake in Talladega. On the Talladega property, which appears to make appearances on and off the reports, Melton says, “It’s been there the whole time.”  He went on to clarify, “If it’s off, I just failed to disclose it.”

The property doesn’t appear on the 2011 or the 2015 reports. Melton admitted it “should be on both of those.” In response to the low price he reportedly paid for the property, he explained, “I got it from my brother-in-law in 1972.”

After our interview early last week Melton said, “Now that I’ve been made aware, I’ll go back and make the proper corrections.”

Alabama Today reached out to the Alabama Ethics Commission just before their office closed on Friday and was told that they have yet to receive any amended reports.

Melton is up for re-election in the upcoming Aug. 23 municipal elections.

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