By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
UPDATE: Will Dismukes filed his 2019 statement of economic interests Friday night, according to the Alabama Ethics Commission’s website. Rep. Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery, who was also contacted last week by Alabama Daily News about a missing report, filed his on Monday. Hatcher, who has filed on time in previous years, said he thought he’d filed the report earlier in the year and it was likely oversight caused by an upending of the legislative session because of COVID-19.
Embattled state Rep. Will Dismukes said this week he filed an annual statement of economic interests, as required by law, and is trying to straighten out why it is not yet public record.
The Alabama Ethics Commission, which collects the filings and displays them in a searchable database, confirmed to Alabama Daily News that the agency did not have the 2019 document from Dismukes, R-Prattville. Two previous years are available.
Members of the Legislature, as well as most other elected officials and public employees at state and local levels, are required to submit the reports each year. They were due April 30.
Dismukes, a freshman lawmaker, has endured calls for his resignation since his participation last Saturday in an event honoring Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
Dismukes on Thursday told ADN via text that “under no circumstance will I be resigning my position in the Alabama Legislature.”
He also said he filed the statement of economic interests and had a confirmation number.
Late last month, Dismukes said on social media that he was “up to date” on his filings after being questioned by Alabama Democratic Party Executive Director Wade Perry.
The reports include incomes of public officials or employees and their spouses. The goal, per state law, is to identify any potential conflicts of interest.
The penalty for not filing is a possible $10 per day fine up to $1,000 and possible referral for misdemeanor prosecution.
Before any penalties are considered, Ethics sends letters to those who did not file on time.
Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton told Alabama Daily News this week that the commission understands that the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for some filers to file on time, and for that reason delayed enforcement efforts until July. The commission is beginning to contact late filers as it is required to do by statute, starting with those filers at the municipal and county levels of government as it does every year.
“We would encourage any filer who is late to get in compliance, they don’t need to wait on a letter from us,” Albritton said.
Only one other House member appeared to be missing a 2019 statement of economic interests, according to a review by Alabama Daily News. Rep. Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery, was not immediately available for comment. Hatcher has filed reports in previous years.
Continued calls for action
Dismukes, 30, earlier this week resigned his position as a pastor at a Baptist Church in Prattville.
On Friday, Alabama Arise, the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP and Greater Birmingham Ministries released a joint statement calling for Dismukes’ resignation from the Legislature.
“Our elected officials and appointed leaders should respect the full dignity, worth and humanity of all people they represent,” the statement said. “We urge all political parties and public officials to acknowledge the harm that white supremacy continues to inflict upon Alabama. And we call upon them to dismantle white supremacist structures through intentional policy changes.
“… Any celebration of Nathan Bedford Forrest of the Ku Klux Klan – a white supremacist terrorist organization – is contrary to the values that Alabamians expect from our leaders, elected officials and neighbors.”
Earlier this week, Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, issued a statement that said the Alabama House “cannot police the beliefs, statements, and activities of its members outside the Legislature as that is a job best assigned to voters in each House district across the state.”
Minority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, said personal beliefs expressed by any one member do not reflect the beliefs of the others, and their activities outside the Legislature should be considered their own.
House minority leader Rep. Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, said he thinks Dismukes should resign and hopes that Alabama’s Republican leadership will come out with a stronger stance against Dismukes’ actions.
Dismukes, a member of a local Sons of Confederate Veterans, has not been shy about his appreciation of Confederate history. In June, he pushed back against state Democrats’ call to stop taxpayer support of the state’s Confederate Memorial Park north of Montgomery.
“The people of Alabama are watching to see what happens,” Daniels told ADN. “Obviously [GOP leadership] ignored it the first time and appear to be passing the buck to his constituents, which to me is an excuse to not do anything and to not lead on this issue.”