MADISON COUNTY, Ala. - Madison County Commissioner JesHenry Malone held a community conversation on Tuesday for open and honest discussion in District 6.
In March, Governor Kay Ivey appointed the 21-year veteran Huntsville Police employee to the job on the commission following the death of the late Commissioner Bob Harrison. Malone, who is a police captain, was sworn in to the commission shortly after. Since then, he has been doing both jobs.
Tuesday was his first community conversation since taking office, and he says it is one of many he will have. Malone said he was pleased by the response and turnout.
People at the meeting recommended renovations to the Bob Harrison Center, asked about recruiting jobs to the area, and questioned him about plans for the former J.O. Johnson High School.
"I'll start putting plans together to address everyone's concerns," Malone said after the meeting. "This is not my district. This is the people's district. In order for me to know what the people want, I have to listen to what the people say. That's why I'm here."
But one person, Chris Horn, came to the meeting to address a different kind of concern.
"I'm concerned about the conflict of roles and potential conflict of interest that may come between Huntsville Police and being a county commissioner," he said of Malone during an interview with WHNT News 19.
Horn spoke at the meeting, taking his concerns public, and Malone responded that in his opinion, there is no conflict.
Malone stated later to WHNT News 19, "My police profession is my full-time job. The county commission is my part-time service to the district. I have to make sure that those two do not cross lines, and that's easy to do." He added, "You have to make sure you have good time management and I've been fortunate enough to have good time management. My administration with the police department is very understanding. They have supported me."
But Horn explained that he got confused when he saw Malone appear in media coverage of an incident that happened over the weekend involving the police department. He wants to know if there can truly be separation.
"If the community has an interest, or a problem, that they want to take to their commissioner, they want to make sure there is a bright line in the sand. That they can talk to their commissioner freely and also be able to be served by Huntsville Police as well," he said.
"This is a community that needs a lot of support," Horn explained of District 6. "We need support with our schools. We have three failing schools in our district. We have the highest crime rate in our district. We have the highest poverty in our district. We have a need for more economic development in our district. And those are full-time commitments that we'll need for this community to grow and prosper."
At the public meeting, Malone stated that Horn was one of the three people Governor Ivey interviewed for the commission job. Malone ended up being appointed to the role. Horn admitted this was true, but he said it's not about the competition.
"For me, it's about what I've always done. I've always been in the public's eye when it comes to serving people who don't have," he said.
Malone maintains that he has been separating, and will continue to separate, his roles.
"There is not a conflict," he said. "I have not experienced a conflict and I don't foresee one in the future."
He added, "When I'm at the police department, I do police work. When I'm at the commission office, I do commission work." When questioned, he said during our interview that he would continue to be able to separate the two, even when citizens came to him with concerns about the police department.
Malone told those gathered at the meeting that he checked with the Alabama Ethics Commission, sought an opinion from the Alabama Attorney General's Office, and both indicated there's no conflict he said. He added that the only conflict would be if he served in the Chief of Police's office, but that is not a problem for him. Therefore, he said he decided to make his intention to be a Commissioner known.
He added that he plans to serve in law enforcement until he can retire. He said he needs to be able to provide for his family. Malone said he also plans to keep doing work for District 6 as long as the people will have him. He said no ball has been dropped with him on both jobs.
Still, Horn said he wants to see Malone make a decision.
"I would like to see him make a choice," Horn said. "Either you serve our communities as he has done for many years and done a great job as a commander with Huntsville Police, or you're our county commissioner."