Questions have arisen about the announced hiring of Alabama Ethics Commission Chief Special Agent Tony Goubil by Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson for the city’s police department, after it was discovered by The Courier that Goubil had met with multiple local sources regarding ethics claims filed with the commission against Wilson.
Six confidential sources from within the City of Fairhope told the Courier they met with Goubil regarding investigations into claims made against her to the Alabama Ethics Commission.
Goubil’s hiring announcement
During the Feb. 26 Fairhope City Council meeting, Wilson first announced the filling of two school resource officer positions for the city.
“Two new resource officers reported for duty this morning at the Fairhope High School and Fairhope Middle School,” Wilson said. “Once part-time positions combined with other responsibilities within the police department, these positions are now full time – devoted strictly to our schools. It takes a special dedicated person to want to serve in this position and I want Earnest Bishop and Shane Nolte to know how much I value their service. I know our school children and their parents will greatly appreciate their presence.”
Wilson said a sergeant position opened up with the transfer of one of the officers to the school resource positions, which she said “provides us with the perfect opportunity to fill one of the most critical jobs and responsibilities this city will ever have – public safety.”
Wilson gave Goubil’s list of qualifications, which include 30 years of law enforcement experience and 26 years in the corporate environment with “management, auditor and security responsibilities.”
“The hiring of Tony Goubil is a point of pride for me and for this City,” Wilson wrote on her official Facebook page Feb. 28. “His passion for safety is going to help catapult our incredible police department to far greater heights. When you have an opportunity to hire someone with this amount of experience to meet a great and growing city need, you take it. Some are casting the filling of this need in a negative light. I can assure you it is not. When a position opens up in any department, under my administration, we will make it available to all deserving and qualified individuals.”
The city also sent out a press release March 2 which further clarified Goubil’s new position, which includes assessing the functionality of several city departments, according to Goubil himself.
“The position encompasses a lot,” Goubil said in the city’s press release. “That means the community itself is safe: Police Department, Fire Department, Emergency Management, the school system. I will assess the functionality of all those departments and make sure the programs the mayor wants implemented are working as they should. I’m not saying that it’s not functioning already; but you can always better things. We’ll make sure the community feels safe.”
The role described is not a normal job function of the sergeant position, according to sources familiar with the department.
A Feb. 8 letter from the Alabama Ethics Commission to one confidential source clearly said Goubil investigated a complaint made to the commission against Wilson.
The letter reads:
“The complaint which you filed against Karin Wilson has been investigated by Commission investigator Tony Goubil,” the letter read. “The results of that investigation were presented to the members of the Alabama Ethics Commission at their meeting held February 7, 2018. The Commission concluded, upon review of evidence from the investigation , that there was not probable cause to believe that Karin Wilson committed a violation of the Alabama Ethics Act. Accordingly, your complaint has been dismissed. Should you provide any additional information that would warrant a reopening of this case, a new investigation would be conducted.”
Those who filed the claims questioned how Goubil’s investigations into those claims could be trusted in the light of his hiring by Wilson.
The Alabama Ethics Commission has stated policies regarding public employees being hired following the departure from their jobs.
In a 2017 memo released by Alabama Ethics Commission Executive Director Thomas Albritton, wrote:
“Some other basic rules to remember based on the cases we saw come through the office last year are related to the ‘revolving door’ provision of the Ethics Act
“Simply put, once you leave your public employer, for two years you may not go to work for a private business or an individual you audited or investigated while you were a public employee.
“You may not represent your new employer before your old public sector employer for two years. You cannot use confidential information learned through your public position to benefit anyone.”
Questions to Wilson, city council, Chief Petties
On Feb. 27, the Courier sent a list of questions to Wilson and each member of the city council about the Goubil hiring, as well as a set to Fairhope Police Chief Joseph Petties.
The questions sent to the mayor and council were as follows:
“1. How long was the job officially posted? Were all internal hiring policies and procedures followed before a job offer was made?
“2. Were internal candidates given an opportunity to apply?
“3. Goubil was the ethics investigator who came to investigate claims against Mayor Wilson on several occasions. What would you think about the fact this individual was previously involved in such investigations?
“4. During the council meeting Monday night, Mayor Wilson described the position given to Goubil as a “hybrid position.” Is there a current job description that fits this position or has a new position been created for Goubil? If so, what are the hybrid elements? Can a position be created without council approval?
Wilson addressed only Question 3 in her response to The Courier.
“Your statement in #3 is not true,” Wilson wrote. “My attorney has already put you and GCN on notice for printing false information. I suggest you not even insinuate such a thing.”
When asked for clarification on her statement after being told multiple sources said they had spoken with Goubil regarding investigations into ethics claims made against her, Wilson responded with the following:
“May want to consider your sources,” Wilson said.
Several members of the Fairhope City Council who responded said they were not aware of the timeline followed for posting the position or if internal candidates were given opportunities to apply.
“No one on the council knew about this position or this hire until it was announced at the council meeting,” Councilman Kevin Boone said. “I don’t believe the position was actually posted correctly either, but we just don’t know. There are many questions surrounding this hire that need to be answered.”
Council President Jack Burrell said he spoke with members of the city’s police department who said official hiring policies were not followed.
“They said they follow those procedures to a t, and I was told those policies were not followed in this case,” Burrell said.
When questioned by The Courier about the hiring process used to bring in Goubil, Petties said Wilson “would be the best person to ask,” as he was made aware of the hiring after her decision to hire him.
“I found out around the same time as everyone else did,” Petties said.
Councilman Robert Brown said he felt it noteworthy that Wilson did not mention Goubil investigating ethics claims against her in her comments to the council and online.
“Mayor Wilson forgot to mention that in her comments and I did not know this at the time of the meeting,” Brown said. “Can you imagine the cries of corruption if someone else hired the person that investigated them?”
Boone said he also took issue with the hiring based on Goubil’s investigations into Wilson.
“This stinks to high heaven,” Boone said. “To me, this seems almost the same as Gov. Bentley offering Luther Strange the Senate seat to end the investigation into him. This just seems incredibly wrong.”
“This doesn’t pass the smell test,” Burrell said. “It’s highly disheartening that our city is once again in the news for missteps taken by the mayor.”
Both Boone and Brown also questioned Wilson’s description of Goubil’s new position as a hybrid one and whether Wilson had the authority to create what they feel is a new position.
“There is no such position nor is one budgeted,” Brown said. “Mr. Goubil could fill Officer Bishop’s position; however, that is another issue. There is no full time SRO position, much less two. There was no communication with council, who is the funding authority. A position is not funded or created until council has approved the position.”
Brown also questioned why Petties wasn’t consulted about the hire.
“This unilateral move by Mayor Wilson is troubling on many fronts,” Brown said. “It is my understanding that Chief Petties wasn’t consulted. Why wouldn’t the head of the Police department be consulted about any of this? Mayor Wilson also continues to have employees work well outside of the job description in which they were approved for. This, too, is unacceptable and again proves her disregard for municipal policies and procedures.”
Boone questioned the availability of the sergeant’s position awarded to Goubil.
“She transferred a sergeant down to the school resource officer position, but how is that position actually open?” Boone asked. “He still holds the rank as far as I know.”
Boone also questioned the title and position of safety director given to Goubil.
“In my mind, Chief Petties holds that position of safety director and will until he decides to leave,” Boone said.
Boone additionally asked why Wilson waited almost a year to fill the open school resource officer position created by the council.
“That position was approved February 2017,” Boone said. “We can’t fill it ourselves - the mayor has to do that. But why did it take her a year to do it?”
Several council members said they would be raising questions with Wilson about the hire given the information they’ve discovered since it was announced.
“There are just too many questions that we and the people of Fairhope need answers to on this,” Boone said.
Claim made against Goubil to Ethics Commission
The Courier can confirm that a well-placed confidential source has made an ethics claim against Goubil for accepting the Fairhope police position.
Goubil was contacted by The Courier to respond to questions, but did not contact The Courier back.