Improper Host post made again on social media
By Lisa Brody
Birmingham City Commissioner Brad Host, brought before the city's ethics board in March 2023 by former city manager Tom Markus, who sought an advisory opinion regarding repeated actions Host had taken spreading personal opinions about the city's master plan on social media, flyers, and other means, has once again posted a message on social media which could be inferred to discredit actions by city officials, a violation of the ethics board opinion.
In a video posted on the social media site Next Door, Birmingham resident Frank Colasanti Jr., who lives on Chapin, expressed frustration, concern and anger over a new home being built next door to him, as well as the city's board of zoning appeal's denial of variance requests related to the proposed construction of a new garage on his property and his personal displeasure with the city of Birmingham.
In response to Colasanti Jr.'s video, in which he is threatening litigation against the city, and expressing his unhappiness with the BZA and its rules, Host responded, “Well stated Frank!”.
In an email to Host from Birmingham City Manager Jana Ecker, which was obtained by Downtown Newsmagazine, Ecker wrote, “As noted in the Advisory Opinion that was issued by the Board of Ethics on May 15, 2023 regarding a similar comment made by you on social media in relation to the Planning Board, the City’s Code of Ethics requires public officials to safeguard public confidence by being honest, fair, and respectful. Public officials must avoid conduct that may tend to undermine respect for City officials and employees and for the City as an institution. Further, the Code of Ethics states that City officials must avoid any action which might result in, or create the appearance of adversely affecting the confidence of the public or the integrity of the City government.
“Your most recent statement “Well stated Frank!” regarding a resident’s displeasure with the Board of Zoning Appeals and the City is very similar in nature to the comment at issue before the Board of Ethics in May. While you may have been trying to be supportive of a resident, the Board of Ethics has previously held that public officials are obligated to be aware that their words can be misinterpreted or misread.”
According to sources, Host responded that he did not believe it was the same kind of situation, and claimed he was only agreeing with a resident. However, city officials have warned and advised all city commissioners, board members and city officials that they can in no way lead a citizen to believe that they are in agreement in any effort that would adversely affect the competency of the public trust in the city and its work.
“It is likely for the public to infer from his post that he's urging the public to object to the city and in my opinion, Mr. Host is agreeing that the BZA wrongly ruled against Mr. Colasanti, that the building department was negligent in dealing with him, and he is urging a citizen to take legal action against the city,” said Birmingham Mayor Therese Longe.
Ecker declined to comment, stating her email reflected her sentiments.
Host said he took his post down, but he did not agree with Ecker, according to Longe.
“It's likely for the public to infer that he's urging the public to object to the city,” Longe stated.
The advisory opinion provided by the ethics board to the administration and commission now provides guidance as to what to do in the future, which as board member John Schrot said, “While not every citizen may have voted for him, he has a fiduciary responsibility to represent every citizen. They want you to come to a meeting with an open mind. Your impartiality – that is what the city manager is trying to point out. It's important you understand the integrity of city government and the public trust… You're a politician. That's your third hat. You're not free to undermine the public trust. You can't say your property will be rezoned, because that may not come to pass.”
In their advisory opinion, the ethics board noted that his position “requires him to avoid conduct, appearance of, affecting adversely the confidence of the public.”
In response to a question of what could happen if Host violates the ethics board opinion a third time, Longe agreed that the issue could be taken as a formal complaint to the ethics board by any interested party.
(Story first posted on Friday, October 27, 2023. Updated Thursday, November 16, 2023.)