HOUSTON COUNTY, Ala. (WDHN) — With the June 21 runoff election now just three weeks away, a tight race between Houston County’s District 3 candidates is heating up.
One big issue being brought up on the campaign trail is what items the current commissioner and incumbent, who is a Houston County sheriff’s deputy, can and cannot vote on.
Commissioner and incumbent for Houston County District 3, Ricky Herring, claims an opinion from the Alabama Ethics Committee allows him to vote on any agenda item. However, his primary opponent Richard Talley, believes that just because something is permitted, doesn’t mean it’s right.
When Herring was first elected to the commission in 2018, he believed it was important to get that opinion from the ethics committee. They unanimously said elected officials, who are also county employees, could vote on a matter as long as it doesn’t directly benefit the commissioner.
“The precedent has already been set throughout the state and other counties where there have people that have been employed by the sheriff’s office. Thet ruled that they were able to run for office and are able to serve as commissioners,” Herring said. “There is also a legislator that serves and he works for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.”
Herring adds he isn’t the first county employee to be elected to office, and says he won’t be the last.
Herring claims he has voted on every agenda item but one since he has been in office and the one, was a raise for Houston County Sheriff, Donald Valenza, saying, ethically it’s something he could have voted for but decided not to for perception.
“I am going to do what is morally, ethically, and lawfully right,” Herring said. “Not only in my position as law enforcement but also as an elected official. It’s very important to the public that we have people like that in office, and that is the way I am going to serve and continue to serve.”
However, his opponent, Richard Talley, said the possibility of having two county sheriff deputies on the commission could raise a conflict. James Ivy, who was just elected to District 4, and Herring are both deputies with Houston County. He believes that just because it has been given the green light doesn’t mean it’s best for the county.
He believes that just because it has been given the green light doesn’t mean it’s best for the county.
“While there is an advisory opinion that says it’s legal and okay for them to be on the commission and vote on things on the sheriff’s department is that what is best?” Talley said, “That is what we have to look at, what is best for the people in Houston County.”
He wants to make it clear, that he isn’t against law enforcement and believes he could be a stronger advocate for the sheriff’s office if elected since he claims he doesn’t have any perceived conflict of interest.
“It may not be in the best interest of the people of Houston County to have two serving deputies on the commission at this point in time,” Talley tells WDHN. “The apostle Paul said in Corinthians and he was talking about dietary law all things permissible but not all things beneficial.”
One issue both candidates can agree on is the importance of people going out and voting in the upcoming runoff election.