Harris likely to keep commission seat

Published 10:56 pm Friday, August 2, 2013

Pike County Commissioner Charlie Harris was arrested for alleged harassment that involved sexual advances, according to a victim. However, he likely won’t be removed from his commission seat because of the arrest.

“The law is silent about anything impacting a public official’s status until and unless there is a conviction,” said Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama.

That means that, until a conviction occurs, a commissioner’s status doesn’t change. And even if Harris is convicted of the harassment charge, it’s a misdemeanor.

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“Misdemeanor charges do not affect a public official’s status in office, even if they are convicted,” Brasfield explained.

An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint has also been filed against Harris and the Pike County Commission, however, that’s likely to have no bearing on the commissioner’s status, either.

Although Brasfield admits he isn’t an EEOC expert he said, “I am not aware of anything in the EEOC process that could result in a public official vacating office.”

Brasfield said Alabama law is very specific about how and why elected officials are removed from office.

Harris is involved in a public capacity through his job as a Pike County Schools bus driver, as well. Pike County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Bazzell said that Harris is still employed as a bus driver at this time.

“We are following the situation at this time, but have no further comment,” Bazzell said.

Harris was arrested on July 26 for the alleged crime that took place on July 22 at the Pike County Commission building. The Pike County administrator and attorney have declined to comment on any pending litigation.

Brasfield’s statements for this article were general and not specific to Harris’ case.