Anniston City Councilman Ben Little was arrested Monday and charged with violating state law for allegedly exceeding his powers as an elected official.
Calhoun County sheriff’s deputies served a warrant after noon for Little’s arrest on a charge of breaking the Council-Manager Act, which establishes Anniston’s form of government. Former Anniston councilman John Spain was charged with a similar violation last year, which ultimately led to him leaving his position on the council.
The law, in Section 11-43A-18 of the state code, says that "neither the mayor nor any member of the council shall give orders to any subordinates of the city manager, either publicly or privately."
Anniston police Lt. Allen George said Little violated the act last week when he requested from a member of the city’s Street Department a video tape showing utility vehicles being stolen from the department’s headquarters downtown.
“He’s basically circumventing official channels and interfering with an investigation,” George said.
George said that if he’s found guilty, Little would be forced to step down from his council position and his chance to run for re-election this year would most likely come down to a judge or state attorney general’s decision.
After walking out of the Calhoun County Jail around 1:30 p.m., Little said he didn’t exactly understand the charges against him, but said he never requested a videotape from a city employee and said he’s never seen the tape in question.
“If I did that they need to prove it,” Little said. “And if I did that I need to spank myself, because that’s not how I operate.”
Little said several residents had contacted him to complain about city employees stealing vehicles and other supplies from the Street Department and he asked the city manager to look into the allegations. Little said he addressed the council about the issue last Tuesday at a council meeting, but never requested a formal investigation or named any city employees as being involved with a conspiracy.
Attempts Monday to reach City Manager Don Hoyt and Public Works Director Bob Dean were unsuccessful.
“This is the pinnacle, I think, of city employees trying to embarrass and intimidate a city official for doing his job,” Little said. “We talk about frivolous lawsuits, well this is about as frivolous as it gets.”
When reached by phone later Monday afternoon, Little reiterated that he believed the arrest was an attempt to humiliate him as well as discredit his bid for re-election to the City Council. Little declined to go into detail on who he believed was responsible for having him arrested, only referring to “they” and “monsters behind the scenes,” and said the truth will come out in the courts.
“The people in Ward 3, both white and black, know what’s going on, and they’re tired of it,” said Little, dismissing the notion that the arrest might negatively affect his campaign.
Attempts Monday to reach Little’s opponent in the election, Seyram Selase, were unsuccessful.
Little was released on an “own-recognizance” bond, meaning he had to pay no bail. He is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 4.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.