Alabama editorial roundup
The Associated Press
Oct. 25, 2017
Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
Montgomery Advertiser on nepotism policies and former Auburn University softball coaches Clint Myers and his son Corey Myers:
Auburn should have just followed the law and its own hiring policies. If the university did, it likely wouldn't be in the mess it is with the softball team.
But like so many laws in Alabama, loopholes exist in the nepotism rules. Auburn took advantage and could face penalties far larger for its athletics department after Auburn coach Corey Myers was accused of having improper relationships with the players. The head coach was his father, Clint Myers.
The state since 1963 has had a nepotism law, the statute that prevents someone hiring a relative within four degrees of blood relation into a state position. The relative cannot be the immediate supervisor or in the chain of command over the employee for hiring, firing, evaluation or discipline of the relative.
Auburn's own policy says, "No person will be hired, either as a regular or temporary employee, for a position over which a member of the employee's immediate family exercises supervisory or managerial authority."
So Corey Myers is Clint Myers' son. Corey Myers is accused of doing some rotten stuff while he was a coach. Corey resigned. Clint retired. And the university is in a big ol' mess.
So who was managing Corey Myers? By law and university policy, it couldn't be Clint Myers. The elder Myers could not supervise him.
When Advertiser reporter Matthew Stevens asked the Auburn athletic department how Corey Myers could be hired, given the law and university policy, they said, "It is not unusual in athletic programs around the country, including in the state of Alabama, to have family members coaching together."
That's a borderline hilarious statement and similar to one you've probably made with police officers when you were pulled over on the highway: "Officer, it wasn't just me. Everyone was speeding, too."
Here's the legal argument the school can make though, Alabama law professor Susan Pace Hamill told Stevens: Corey Myers didn't report to his father. All human resource actions were done by a different supervisor. She also said that argument is malarkey at best and ridiculous in practice.
The man who oversaw the softball program — nearly every piece and made it so successful — in this argument had no managerial authority over an assistant coach.
So when the softball team was on the road, who made sure Corey Myers was keeping his relationship "appropriate" with the players, if the accusations are true? Was Clint Myers making sure Corey Myers was coming back from the bed checks at an appropriate time or was HR doing that?
Nepotism laws exist to make sure no one is favored over another because they are relatives. A lot of times it's to prevent someone profiting off public money just because the boss is Dad or Mom.
They also exist to make sure that when low-down, incredibly inappropriate things happen, everyone has a professional relationship, and the discipline is cut and dry. They are there so no one can say, "Ah Dad, I was just horsing around. Promise, I won't do it again." And so Dad doesn't say, "All right son, I trust you."
There are other coaches with their relatives working for them in this state. Bruce Pearl's son Steven works for (we mean, "with") him on the Auburn men's basketball staff. Alabama women's basketball coach Kristy Curry has her husband, Kelly, on her staff.
Everything about the hiring process of Corey Myers may have been legal — and that's up to interpretation — but it's certainly not ethical. It's disgusting, and if the Title IX complaint by a former player is true, Auburn should be ashamed.
It's up to the state now to make sure everyone follows the law as it was meant and not how it is interpreted for college sports programs.
Opelika-Auburn News on the death of a 3-year-old girl who drowned in a grease pit:
The first recognition of tragedy with a grease pit comes from the Oct. 14 death of 3-year-old angel Sadie Grace Andrews of Auburn.
The second recognition of tragedy with a grease pit comes from the realization that this has happened before with other children, meaning prevention efforts, awareness and education should have prevented Sadie's death and that of any other child similarly lost in recent years.
The final recognition of tragedy with a grease pit should come in doing whatever it takes to prevent any other innocent child from ever enduring such a fate, ever again.
There simply is no excuse.
Sadie was there at an ice cream shop, playing in its open yard and invited there with her family by picnic tables and a beautiful autumn afternoon.
It seemed the perfect setting for family and friends to enjoy such a fun and tasty outdoor treat.
Until Sadie suddenly and literally dropped out of sight.
She had clamored on top of the grease-pit lid, atop a circular mound rising a few inches above the ground, and it no doubt was tempting for any fun-loving 3-year-old to climb and maybe jump upon it up and down.
That's what curious, playful 3-year-olds do.
Was the lid left partially open or improperly closed by someone in a hurry?
Perhaps investigations will find more answers, and for the sake of the next child who plays there, they must.
Beyond that, however, there should be a steadfast calling for much stronger safety guidelines and stricter inspection and enforcement rules when it comes to such pits of hell anywhere in the land.
No grease pit, septic tank or sewer drain of any kind should lay in wait as a trap to capture the life of our most precious treasures — our children. This tragedy should not have happened.
That it did happen should send a clear warning to any business or residential complex that must use these type collectors, and for those charged with regulating them: Never let it happen again.
It happened before.
It happened here, with Sadie Grace Andrews.
We share our collective prayers with the family, and for Sadie:
May she rest in peace.
Times Daily of Florence on Alabama's court fees:
One of the greatest equalizing institutions of our democracy is the court system. Wrongs can be righted, disputes settled, and justice served.
In Alabama, that institution is being eroded by a state government that tacks fees onto the system that make access to justice by the poor and meek of means almost impossible.
For years, lawmakers have funded non-court functions with fees that put up a taller wall for those needing access to the courts. The fees are, in a sense, tax increases, only they are not taxes.
Alabama legislators won't touch the third rail of state politics — property taxes — to properly fund anything. For a century, they have added taxes to everything from booze to cigarettes. Property taxes, which are the most stable source of money available to state and local governments, are not to be discussed because the state's antiquated constitution shields wealthy landowners from paying their fair share of the burden.
The problem was brought into focus recently by representatives of the Alabama State Bar Association. Suzi Huffaker, legislative counsel for the association, said 26 percent of fees collected as court costs are "non-court disbursements." That totaled $116.6 million in the 2015-16 fiscal year.
Huffaker broke down the amounts collected by county. For example, in Lauderdale County, $1.5 million in non-court disbursements were collected that year, and in Colbert County, the amount totaled $1.2 million.
That is money that should not have been fleeced from residents.
It's not that some of the fees support frivolous things. Some of the money helps with law enforcement and education. But that money should be drawn from traditional tax sources, not from Alabamians accessing the courts.
There are, however, some things being funded through court fees that should not be allowed. For example, the Citizenship Trust Fund received $345,416 in 2015-16 from a fee assessed in court costs. What is this organization, you might ask. It operates the American Village, and American history and civics site in Montevallo.
Some of the things the fees fund do not have to be reported, so there is no real accountability attached to them.
Huffaker cited an example of how prohibitive the fees are to the poor. She said a single mother receiving child support could get an additional $50 to $100 a month, but she can't afford the $450 filing fee.
A group from the Alabama Law Institute is exploring legislation that would put a moratorium on additional court costs to allow an examination of the system. That is a splendid idea and deserves the support of every lawmaker in Montgomery.