The Alabama Ethics Commission will not investigate DeKalb County Sheriff Jimmy Harris, at least not until after the General Election.
The news came in a letter to Harris on Wednesday from the Ethics Commission.
"Based on the fact this complaint was file within 45 days of the election, it is not being accepted at the present time, and is being returned to the individual filing the complaint [Sid Holcomb]," said Ethics Commission General Counsel Hugh Evans. "If, after the election, they choose to re-file the complaint, it will be looked at, and you will be notified."
Commission President Sid Holcomb received a letter from Evans saying Holcomb was told he could not file the complaint within 45 days of an election.
"On September 22, I confirmed that we received your September 21 complaint against Sheriff Jimmy Harris of DeKalb County," Evans said in the letter. "Jim Sumner, our director, told you that we would not be used for political purposes, and that we had a 45-day rule before elections, in which time we would not accept a complaint.
"This came to my attention when I saw on al.com that you had given both your complaint and my letter to the press. It is hard to imagine this complaint was filed for any purposes other than to harm the sheriff's re-election campaign."
On Tuesday, Holcomb said he filed the complaint Sept. 21 after a commission meeting. During that meeting, a DeKalb County citizen and sheriff's candidate Lamar Bray supporter presented allegations that Harris used the sheriff's official website to host re-election campaign pages.
Holcomb said in his 21 years of experience, he has never had to deal with such an issue regarding the sheriff's website and sought counsel from Sumner.
"I called the Ethics Commission for advice and talked to Mr. Sumner, told him the situation, and I asked him what to do and he told me to send the information to him," Holcomb said.
Holcomb said in a response letter to Evans that he did not recall being told there was a 45-day rule.
"I do not recall Mr. Sumner notifying me about a 45-day rule; however, I now understand that the claim was submitted 42 days prior to the election, instead of 45 and cannot be accepted at this time," Holcomb said in a return letter. "It will be filed again following the election, as you have advised."
Holcomb went onto say he felt he was doing his job by filing a complaint within 10 days of notification of a possible ethics violation, according to state law.
"I do take exception to your claim of political motivation, as I was merely trying to comply with the law," Holcomb said in the letter. "My concern was that Code Section 36-25-17 requires a public official to report a possible ethics violation within 10 days of notification. This complaint was brought to my attention, and I had no choice but to report it within 10 days of learning of the apparent violation as required by this code section."
Holcomb said, in his letter to Evans, "because the letters were public record, I felt I could not refuse the press' request to release them."
Harris said he too, believed the complaint filed was a political move by Holcomb.
"This morning, the Alabama Ethics Commission notified [me] that the Ethics Commission had refused to accept DeKalb County Commission President Sid Holcomb's complaint against [me]," Harris said. "The Ethics Commission recognizes that politically motivated complaints, filed shortly before elections, are inherently suspect and not worthy of consideration. The Ethics Commission obviously does not want to waste taxpayer money settling political scores. Regardless, we welcome any investigation initiated by Sid Holcomb whether by private accountants or others."
Holcomb plans to re-file the complaint following the Nov. 2 election.