Jim Zeigler weighing options after Baldwin school board ruling

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Montgomery Circuit Judge Greg Griffin has dismissed the lawsuit by State Auditor Jim Zeigler and two taxpayers of Baldwin County who sued attorney general Luther Strange and five Baldwin school officials, citing legal procedural grounds.

Zeigler had sought a remedy from the court against he saw as mishandling of public funds and the public trust when elected officials within the Baldwin School System used about $250,000 in taxpayer money to fund their “Build Baldwin Now” campaign to persuade local residents to increase property tax rates to pay for new school construction.

Griffin ruled Friday that the taxpayer plaintiffs lacked legal standing to sue and did not set out a specific “cause of action” against the defendants, including Strange and the school board members.

Zeigler said the adverse ruling will not stop him from pursuing justice for Alabama taxpayers.

“I’m not saying the court was in error regarding their ruling, but the ruling simply misses the law’s plain meaning,” said Zeigler on Monday.

He points to section 17-17-5 of the Code of Alabama:

“… 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.”

Zeigler, a former attorney, said there is no way to interpret the Baldwin campaign’s actions as conforming to that provision. The BBN campaign was patently a “political activity,” Zeigler said, because it sought to influence the outcome of a local election.

Zeigler told ALToday.com on Monday he is continuing to investigate his legal options and confer with his fellow co-plaintiffs. He had said Friday that he’ll study the ruling before deciding whether to appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court.

The judge’s order allows for 40 days of deliberation regarding that point, but Zeigler said he expects to take action far sooner than that.

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