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Ethics Law - § 36-25-24(a), Ala. Code 1975

Craft v. McCoy, et al., [Ms. 1180820, June 5, 2020] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2020). The Court (Bolin, J.; Shaw, Wise, Bryan, Sellers, Mendheim, Stewart, and Mitchell, JJ., concur; Parker, C.J., dissents) affirms the Lee Circuit Court’s summary judgment dismissing a complaint by the Crafts against the members of the Lee County Board of Education and the school Superintendent. The Crafts, who were employed as HVAC technicians by the Board, alleged that after they contacted the State Ethics Commission regarding possible ethics violations by members of the Board and an assistant superintendent, they were subject to adverse employment action by the Board in violation of § 36-25-24(a), Ala. Code 1975. The circuit court construed § 36-25-24(a)’s protection as applying only to an employee who files a formal complaint with the Ethics Commission.

The Court affirms, holding

…recognizing that we must strive to interpret a statute as a harmonious whole, see City of Montgomery v. Town of Pike Road, 789 So. 3d 575, 580 (Ala. 2009), we observe that subsections (b), (c), (e), and (f) of § 36-25-24 each focus on acts involving or resulting from the filing of a complaint with the Commission. Admittedly, subsection (c) recognizes that other means exist to “initiate action” regarding an alleged violation of the Code of Ethics. However, a harmonious reading of all the subsections in § 36-25-24 requires the conclusion that the legislature’s intent in § 36-25-24(a) was to prevent retaliation by an employer against a public employee when the employee files a complaint with the Commission.

Ms. **20-21.

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