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Former Ranburne mayor indicted on ethics charge

Ranburne council

Ranburne Mayor Jim Smith stands at the lectern during a Town Council meeting in July. Smith was arrested on ethics charges Monday. 

Former Ranburne Mayor Jim Smith was booked into the Cleburne County Jail on Monday, after being indicted by a Cleburne County grand jury of using his office for personal gain. 

Smith’s indictment and arrest come after the Alabama Ethics Commission found cause in June that he had violated state ethics law.

According to the indictment, Smith was charged because he hired his wife to work at the Ranburne Senior Center as mayor.

Cleburne County sheriff’s deputies booked Smith on Monday into the Cleburne County Jail, where he remained Tuesday morning, according to the jail’s online inmate roster. His bond was set at $15,000. On Tuesday afternoon, the roster no longer listed Smith as an inmate. 

Smith is set to appear in court at 9 a.m. Oct. 31 for an arraignment.

Attempts to reach Smith on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Smith was removed from office in May after he missed numerous meetings. Smith said after he was notified of his removal at a Town Council meeting that he missed meetings due to health issues.

The Town Council appointed then-Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Smith, who is not related to Jim Smith, to take his place.

Jim Smith and the council had been at odds over numerous issues in the months before his removal.

Council members in June 2018 voted to strip Smith of several responsibilities. Smith was barred from being in city clerk Pamela Norton’s office without her present and from signing checks. 

The council also discontinued paying for Smith’s cell phone and iPad, ordering him to turn them into the town, and instructing police Chief Steve Tucker to take the car Smith formerly used to an auto repair shop for an estimate of interior damages while it was in Smith’s possession.

The council alleged that the money had been spent on things such as hiring his wife for a part-time position at the senior center, a new computer for the senior center and tree trimming services. Smith claimed then that many of those expenditures had been approved by the council.

Council members met in February with prosecutors, but didn’t say why. Smith told The Star in February two ethics complaints had been filed against him.

The first, he said, was filed because he temporarily hired his wife, Barbara Smith, to run the town’s senior center when there was no one else to staff it, while the second was over whether the mayor could use the town’s money to feed jail inmates on work detail.

Using a public office for personal gain is a Class B felony. If convicted, Smith could face up to 20 years in prison and up to a $30,000 fine, according to state law.

Contact Staff Writer Mia Kortright at 256-235-3563.