State Auditor Jim Zeigler continues his fight to stop the use of taxpayer money to lobby for tax increases. That fight has been an ongoing priority for Zeigler.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Luther Strange filed a motion to dismiss Zeigler’s case. Zeigler said the motion to dismiss has “totally missed the point – the plain meaning of the law.”
In a statement released by Zeigler, he describes Strange’s objections as being based on the premise that “the three plaintiffs do not have legal standing to bring the suit, failed to state a legal cause of action, and that the AG did not cause the damage.”
The lawsuit was originally filed by Zeigler and two Baldwin County taxpayers against Strange and five Baldwin school officials. Since that time Zeigler has amended the suit to remove the school officials as defendants. The lawsuit contends that when the Baldwin School Board spent more than $250,000 of taxpayers’ money campaigning for a tax increase in a March 31 referendum, it broke state laws.
The specific law the suit references is Code of Alabama, 17-17-5, which states:
“… no person in the employment of the State of Alabama, a county, a city, a local school board, or any other governmental agency, whether classified or unclassified, shall use any state, county, city, local school board, or other governmental agency funds, property, or time, for any political activities.”
The day before the vote at the request of the Baldwin County School Board, Attorney General Strange said that the board’s actions were permitted under a 2003 opinion. At the time Zeigler said, “The Attorney General is full of m-u-d, mud. You cannot use a 2003 Attorney General opinion to interpret a 2010 law. Can’t do it,”
Voters ultimately rejected the proposed increase 68 percent to 32 percent.
“The attorney general is throwing legal technicalities against us trying to justify a wrong. It is illegal and grossly unfair to use taxpayer’s money to campaign in a vote for a tax increase,” Zeigler said.
In his news release Friday, Zeigler noted that he will give an update on the status of the lawsuit suit in a speech at 6 p.m. Monday to the Lawrence County Republican Party. The meeting will be held at Mel’s Steakhouse in Moulton. Lawrence County is one of three counties that soundly defeated tax increase proposals initiated by local boards of education. The Lawrence County vote was 80 percent no, 20 percent yes.
The suit has been assigned to Montgomery Circuit Judge Greg Griffin. No hearing has been set.