Q: Can a sheriff in an active election campaign threaten to fire his deputies if seen talking to any of his opponents?
This sheriff threatened to fire anyone seen talking to a particular individual that contributed to his opponents campaign also. The same sheriff in last election threatened to terminate anyone that he found that didn't vote for him? Are these things election violations? I was told possibly federal and state laws were violated but this didn't come from someone that specialized in these types of issues and couldn't inform of what laws. I don't know where to go and whom to ask so I decided to ask here.
Please understand that I do not practice law in GA and will not pretend to know Georgia law or specific Georgia election statutes. However, the question I would pose is: is Georgia a "right to work" state? Another question might be: does Georgia law prohibiting harassment apply to elected officials? The terms "harassment" and definitions of phrases such as "disturbing the peace," seem like they might apply to what the Sheriff is doing. In Georgia, the law prohibits any employee from attempting to "influence" another employee: read this:
2019 Georgia Code
Title 16 - Crimes and Offenses
Chapter 10 - Offenses Against Public Administration
Article 1 - Abuse of Governmental Office
§ 16-10-5. Influencing of officer or employee of state or political subdivision by another officer or employee
Universal Citation: GA Code § 16-10-5 (2019)
(a) Any officer or employee of the state or any agency thereof who asks for or receives anything of value to which he or she is not entitled in return for an agreement to influence or attempt to influence official action by any other officer or employee of the state or any agency thereof shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $100,000.00 or by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years, or both.
(b) Any officer or employee of a political subdivision who asks for or receives anything of value to which he or she is not entitled in return for an agreement to influence or attempt to influence official action by any other officer or employee of that political subdivision shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $100,000.00 or by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years, or both.
Ga. L. 1878-79, p. 175, § 1; Code 1882, § 4470a; Penal Code 1895, § 269; Penal Code 1910, § 272; Code 1933, § 26-4103; Code 1933, § 26-2305, enacted by Ga. L. 1968, p. 1249, § 1; Ga. L. 2010, p. 1173, § 25/SB 17.
I apologize for quoting GA law when you were speaking about Alabama. In Alabama, there are laws against "corruption in office." The term "corruption" in Alabama means many things, from concealing an affair to misusing campaign funds. Here is a good article about the history of Alabama and corruption: https://birminghamwatch.org/alabamas-political-corruption-three-governors-and-one-house-speaker-convicted-gives-state-a-reputation/
There is a general Alabama Code which deals with corruption:
Universal Citation: AL Code § 36-11-1 (2020)
Persons subject to impeachment and removal from office; grounds for impeachment generally.
(a) The following officers may be impeached and removed from office: judges of circuit and probate courts, district attorneys, judges of the courts of appeals, district judges, sheriffs, clerks of the circuit courts, tax collectors, tax assessors, county treasurers, coroners, notaries public, constables and all other state officers not named in Section 173 of the constitution and all other county officers and mayors and intendants of incorporated cities and towns in this state.
(b) The officers specified in subsection (a) of this section may be impeached and removed from office for the following causes:
(1) Willful neglect of duty;
(2) Corruption in office;
(4) Intemperance in the use of intoxicating liquors or narcotics to such an extent in view of the dignity of the office and importance of its duties as unfits the officer for the discharge of such duties; or
(5) Any offense involving moral turpitude while in office or committed under color thereof or connected therewith.
(Code 1876, §4047; Code 1886, §4818; Code 1896, §4864; Code 1907, §7099; Code 1923, §4497; Code 1940, T. 41, §178.)
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