Please pray for my friend Dr. Tom Dooley who recently campaigned for the District 4 seat on the Alabama Board of Education. Although he lost, I’m extremely proud of him. I’ve known Tom for almost four years and have served on the board of his ministry. In the aftermath of the elections, several issues came to the forefront regarding his opponent and the shortcomings of the law in the state of Alabama.
The first issue involves questions about the qualifications of the opposing candidate. Here’s an excerpt from a press release highlighting this serious breach of trust on behalf of the candidate and the affiliated party (Democrats):
Ms. Richardson has been a “professional educator” during the five years prior to the election. Under Alabama statutes in Title 16: Section 16-3-3 anyone who has been employed as a “professional educator” during the five years prior to the election is excluded from qualification as a candidate and as a member of the SBOE:
The members of the board shall be qualified electors of the State of Alabama, and each member shall be a qualified elector in the district which he represents. No person who is an employee of the board or who is or has been engaged as a professional educator within five years next preceding the date of the election shall be eligible for membership on the board. For the purposes of this section the term "professional educator" shall include teacher, supervisor or principal of any public or private school; instructor, professor or president of any public or private university, college or junior college or trade school; any state, county or city superintendent of education; or other person engaged in an administrative capacity in the field of education. [Code of Alabama – Title 16: Education - Section 16-3-3 - Qualifications of members.]
When Tom first shared this with me, I was shocked. How can anyone in right conscience campaign for an office in which, by law, they are not permitted to hold? Obviously you don’t need a degree in Political Science to understand this clearly written and articulated statute in the laws of Alabama. However a simple search through the Internet reveals that Tom Dooley’s opponent has been a “professional educator” in the past few years which is prohibited for all candidates vying for this seat. Why would there be an exception to the law for Ms. Richardson? Again the press release mentions several of these stints:
First, Ms. Richardson’s political campaign website lists her career experience in the Fairfield City Schools (including Superintendent), Russell Co. Schools (including Superintendent), and Virginia College (currently employed as the Associate Dean) and all within recent years. The “Experience” is noted verbatim on her campaign website:
“Currently Associate Dean Virginia College, Birmingham campus, 31 years in public education; Teacher, Assistant School Principal, School Principal, Director of Curriculum, Assistant Superintendent, Interim Superintendent, Superintendent – all within the Fairfield City School System (29 years), Superintendent Russell County School System (1 year 10 months), Education Consultant, Adjunct Professor (Miles College, Samford University, Troy University).” [www.yvetteforthechildren.com]
Furthermore, another issue has arisen due to a “flaw in the law” as stated in another press release sent out by Dr. Tom Dooley:
In an earnest effort to seek to “contest” to challenge Ms. Richardson’s qualifications in the General Election as per Section 16-3-3 and prior to the results being certified by the Secretary of State Beth Chapman (likely early next week), Dr. Dooley has learned that there is apparently “a Flaw in the Law”. The Alabama Code should provide specific instructions within Section 17 on how any eligible voter within the district can challenge the results of the election or in this particular case the qualifications of a candidate.
In other elected offices (e.g., statewide, district, county), there are state statutes that serve as glide paths for voters, attorneys, judges, and other elected officials to rely upon as the procedures for a contest. But, that apparently isn’t the case for the office of the State Board of Education. Perhaps somehow this particular elected office was overlooked when the elections contest statutes were prepared!
Efforts to identify the appropriate AL statute(s) in the event that any eligible voter within District 4 desired to challenge have been unproductive. It appears likely that all of the voters of District 4 (or other SBOE Districts) may have been denied the right of due process under the law with regard to an election contest. Ditto for Dr. Dooley as the Republican nominee in this election. What is “just” and “right” sometimes isn’t even permitted by the letter of the law. That just isn’t right! A clear path should be possible going forward.
If you are a resident of Alabama, please consider forwarding this to those in the media to generate attention. At the very least this “flaw in the law” needs to be addressed by state legislators in order to avoid similar injustice on behalf of any citizen wishing to contest a clear violation in a candidate’s election to the State Board of Education. I know Tom is seeking to ensure that justice is attainable for all under the state laws of Alabama in the future.
Brian Francis Hume