GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Joey Masters, Marshall County’s embattled Revenue Commissioner, was arrested Wednesday morning. He then resigned from his job.
Masters, 51, was booked in the Marshall County Jail around 8:30 a.m. He is charged with violating state ethics laws. His bond was set at $1,500, and he posted it by mid-morning.
Attorney General Luther Strange said Masters submitted his resignation from the county position. He was arrested on a warrant brought by the Special Prosecutions Division of the Attorney General’s Office. Masters is accused of using his official position to obtain personal gain. The crime is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in the county jail and a fine of up to $6,000.
WHNT News 19 contacted Masters for a statement. His lawyer, Dan Warnes, issued a statement saying the matter has to do with petty cash funds from the Revenue Commissioner’s office.
“Joey Masters has been arrested for a misdemeanor violation of Section 36-25-5(a) of the Code of Alabama Ethics law accusing him of personal use of office,” Warnes statement read. “He has resigned from the office of Marshall County Revenue Commissioner as of November 6, 2013. The charge is based upon Joey’s use of petty cash funds from the Revenue Commissioner’s Office. At no time did Joey have an intent to violate the ethics law for which he has been charged. He is aware that he is responsible for all petty cash funds and for any shortage in those funds whether the shortage was due to his use or as a result of accounting errors made by employees. Joey has taken full responsibility for his error in judgment as evidenced by his resignation from office.”
County commissioners say officials are elected to the position. Masters was in his second elected term.
As for finding a replacement, Marshall County Commission Chair James Hutcheson says that position is up for election next year. He says a replacement could come from one of two sources. “It’ll be strictly up to the Governor to decide if he wants to replace the Revenue Officer now, or let the election cycle take its place. That’d be up to the Governor,” Hutcheson says.
He says county residents won’t see any changes to the office between now and then. “I just want the people of Marshall County to know it’s strictly business as usual in the Revenue Office,” Hutcheson says.
Hutcheson says the Commission has been pleased with the way the state has been running the Revenue Office, and he says they expect that to continue until a replacement is appointed or elected.
Masters was off the job for nine months last year when the Alabama Department of Revenue took over his office in December 2012 after an audit found irregularities. Masters did not work until August 2013, when he returned to an office set up for him at the Albertville courthouse.
Masters continued to draw his salary while he was out of the office. It’s not clear what he did for those nine months.
Separate Civil Case
In a separate matter, a Marshall County resident is suing Masters. Kenneth Downs, of Grant, claims Masters gave tax breaks to wealthy friends and political supporters. Downs and his lawyer, Randy Beard, said these tax breaks cost Marshall County around $20 million in ad valorem money, as shown in an audit by the Alabama Department of Revenue.