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Ethics board to hear city complaint against Host

By Lisa Brody

The Birmingham Ethics Board has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday, March 7, to consider a request for an advisory opinion, filed by city manager Tom Markus, relative to activities by city commissioner Brad Host in what may be contradictory behavior for an elected official.

“I am requesting an Advisory Opinion as it relates to Commissioner Brad Host for his activities since at least September of 2022 through the present time in his public statements, mail activities and social media posts as it relates to the Birmingham 2040 comprehensive master plan (“2040 Plan”),” Markus wrote in his request, noting the board has previously offered advisory opinions when it appears actions are in conflict with the city's code of ethics.

In citing previous rulings, Markus quoted the ethics board, “Accordingly, this Opinion celebrates the rights of free speech, but also addresses the self-imposed limitations thereof when one voluntarily elects to become a City Official. When one serves in the public sector, one becomes less and less ‘a public citizen’ and more and more a ‘public servant.’ This is part of the responsibilities and burdens one accepts as a public official. Being a public servant may constrain one’s activities in many ways, including the open expression of personal views.”

At issue is perceived interference with the city's 2040 master plan process, which has been underway for over four years. Host has been scolded by Markus at commission meetings for spreading false information about the 2040 Plan and attending other city board and committee meetings, but he has continued to post videos to Facebook, distribute flyers to residents, and disseminate information on the master plan which is factually inaccurate.

Beyond the spread of misinformation is that city commissioners are the final decision makers on the plan, which Host appears to preclude.

“Despite continued education in December to Commissioner Host, Commissioner Host’s current videos, even at this date, continue to contain fear-mongering and continue to advocate for specific positions on topics which will eventually be presented to the full City Commission for consideration and adoption of the 2040 Plan. Commissioner Host is in fact one of the final arbiters of this Plan. He violates the normal process of the City Commission when he, as a sitting Commissioner, publicly voices his concerns, opinions and discussions in personal forums. This is not the proper governmental channel. The proper governmental channel is at the public Commission meetings with the entire City Commission present,” Markus wrote in his complaint.

The city's code of ethics states that city officials and employees must avoid actions that might result in “or create the appearance of: Using public employment or office for private gain; Giving or accepting preferential treatment, including the use of city property or information, to or from any organization or person; Losing complete independence or impartiality of action; Making a city decision outside official channels; or affecting adversely the confidence of the public or the integrity of the city government.”

Markus states in his complaint that Host's perpetuation of misinformation, spread through videos and letters ,are a violation of the code “because they have resulted in, and created the appearance of, Commissioner Host using his office for personal gain, for losing complete independence and impartiality of action, making City decisions outside of the Commission meeting and affecting adversely the confidence of the public and the integrity of City government. This is evidenced by the communications of a citizen whereby they are reacting to misinformation. Also, the appearance of negativity in Commissioner Host’s affect, comments, and accusatory tone, particularly with

misinformation, has agitated these issues and has violated and tainted the process of government such that the Planning Board members felt they needed police presence at their meeting.”

Markus also states he believes Host is adversely affecting the integrity of the city's government.

The ethics board will meet to hear both sides on Wednesday, March 7, at 1 p.m.


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