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September 20, 2014

Ethics panel fines commissioners over animal control center use

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Rudy Abbott

J.D. Hess

Posted: Thursday, August 7, 2014 4:10 pm | Updated: 4:35 pm, Thu Aug 7, 2014.

The Alabama Ethics Commission on Wednesday passed administrative resolutions on two Calhoun County commissioners for violations regarding use of the county’s animal control center.

Jim Sumner, director of the Ethics Commission, said J.D. Hess was fined $150 and Rudy Abbott was fined $228 for the violations.

Both violations stem from a complaint to the commission that stated Abbott had kept his pet dogs at the animal control center, while Hess kept a mule there. Sumner said the fines were based on estimates of how much it would have cost the center to keep the animals.

Sumner said both fines represented “low-level violations,” and that both commissioners agreed to pay the fines. The Ethics Commission will take no further action on the matter, he said.

Hess said neither he nor Abbott attended the meeting Wednesday, but had agreed to pay the fines when talking to investigators about the complaints. Hess said he surrendered the mule to the center legally, and had paid a fee, but no paperwork existed for the transaction. According to Jane Cunningham, chairwoman of the Cheaha Regional Humane Center, the group that now controls County Animal Control, most of the paperwork that existed prior to the group’s takeover was either destroyed or lost in the transition.

“This is like less than a speeding ticket,” Cunningham said about the ruling.

Hess said he did not bother to fight the complaint because of the lack of paperwork, but said his agreement to pay the fine was not an admission of guilt.

Attempts to reach Abbott on Wednesday and Thursday were unsuccessful.

Sumner said the Ethics Commission does not make rulings of guilt or innocence during ethics violations hearings.

Attempts to reach John Wippler, the resident who filed the complaints, were unsuccessful. Wippler previously served on a board of directors that oversaw animal control. He also filed similar complaints with the Ethics Commission against commissioner Don Hudson, as well as Cheaha Regional Humane Society board members Brian McVeigh, Calhoun County's district attorney,  and Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson.

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