News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Even city councilmen are required to obey state law

No one is above the law. Not even Decatur City Councilman Ray Metzger.

Mr. Metzger said Monday that he has returned more than $2,800 to city coffers for equipment and maintenance the city Police Department purchased from his motorcycle shop. He said he has also withdrawn an invoice for more than $1,400 in additional equipment and services.

Returning the funds was the right thing to do. But it should not have been necessary in the first place.

Mr. Metzger said he initially ignored several warnings about doing business with the city after voters elected him in 2004. He rationalized that, because he had done business with the city since 1977, he should not have to stop servicing police motorcycles.

A possible $1,000 fine did not bother Mr. Metzger, but the threat of jail time changed his perspective and persuaded him to return the money, he said Monday.

Mr. Metzger was wrong to continue to accept city business after taking office. Voters elected him to protect their interests, not to profit from his position. The Legislature enacted the law to prevent government corruption. If Mr. Metzger wished to continue doing business with the city, he should not have run for office. It is the price all Alabama elected officials pay for the privilege of serving the public.

Mr. Metzger fumed that the Police Department will have to pay a higher labor rate to take the cycles elsewhere. Perhaps that is true. But it is a price taxpayers gladly pay to avoid the possibility of corruption.

And the city just might end up saving money. By soliciting competitive bids from other businesses, the city might get a better rate. It is possible that other cycle shops will lower their rates in the hope that they can win the city's business.

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