State drops Gantt case

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 17, 2003

The State of Alabama has filed a motion to drop ethics charges against Gantt Councilwoman Barbara Gantt involving a case dating back to October 2000.

A motion was submitted to the Covington County Circuit Court for an order of nolle prosse on Tuesday, April 15

by Attorney General Bill Pryor and Assistant Attorney General Nancy M. Kirby.

The order to grant nolle prosse was signed by Covington County Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan on Thursday.

The order will likely bring to a conclusion an issue that has already been tried several times, and Gantt said she is relieved by the order to drop the charges.

"First and foremost, I am happy that it's over," said Gantt. "The case has created a great deal of stress and strain for me and my family."

Gantt added that she is looking forward to getting back to trying to help the Gantt council make progress for the town, and said that this has always been her main motivation in serving on the council.

Attorney Riley Powell also said he is very pleased with the order to drop the charges.

"I think the order is the right thing (for the state) to do for the citizens of Covington County," said Powell. "The attorney general has had three separate trials (regarding issues relating to the Gantt council) and has not won a case. Hopefully this will allow the Gantt council to get on with politics as they are and now they can move forward. If (the charges had not been dropped) a fourth trial would have begun on Monday."

According to the motion, a motion to nolle prosse was submitted by the state due to the fact that the state has tried this case before a court on two prior occasions, with both of those trials resulting in mistrials due to hung juries and also due to consideration of judicial economy and the state's limited resources.

In October 2000, Gantt had been elected as a councilwoman before current Mayor David Harrell had been appointed.

At the time, Tommy Glidewell was serving as Mayor Pro Tem, and the issue of hiring a new town clerk developed.

Donna Shipp, the daughter of Gantt, emerged as a candidate, and an ethics question regarding whether Gantt had actually voted for Shipp became a major issue of controversy.

Gantt, according to Powell, maintained from the beginning of the issue that she had not voted and Powell said the actual council minutes showed she had abstained from the vote.

Several other council members, however, said Gantt had voted.

A videotape of the meeting proved inconclusive, and as the state motion confirmed, two trials regarding the issue had resulted in hung juries.