Alex Hodge, part-time sheriff and part-time business owner, could be in violation of state ethics laws with the blurred lines between B-Clean and his employment with Jones County.
Section 25-4-105 of the Mississippi ethics laws, it appears as if Hodge is in violation of both sections 1 and 2.
Section 1 reads: No public servant shall use his official position to obtain, or attempt to obtain, pecuniary (monetary) benefit for himself other than that compensation provided for by law, or to obtain, or attempt to obtain, (monetary) benefit for any relative or any business with which he is associated.
Section 2 reads: No public servant shall be interested, directly or indirectly, during the term for which he shall have been chosen, or within one (1) year after the expiration of such term, in any contract with the state, or any district, county, city or town thereof, authorized by any law passed or order made by any board of which he may be or may have been a member.
According to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office, Hodge is involved with four companies — B Clean Environmental, LLC, B Clean, LLC, B Clean Plumbing and B Clean Transportation. Alex Hodge is listed as the agent for B Clean LLC, while Edward A. Hodge is listed as agent for the environmental and transportation aspects of the company. His son Brayden is listed as agent of B Clean Plumbing. But all the entries list the same address: 321 Lower Myrick Road. A fifth company, B Clean Portables, was dissolved in 2005 and its agent was listed as Sharla Hodge, the sheriff’s wife.
In his time as sheriff, business has soared. There’s no doubt that his position has helped enrich him. Sanderson Farms and other large companies inside Jones County contract with various B Clean operations. That begs the question: Is that relationship a quid pro quo — you take care of me and I will take care of you — scenario. As Publisher Jim Cegisleki writes (Page 5), Sanderson Farms uses sheriff’s deputies for security, even though the company is located inside the city limits. Sources have said that Sanderson executives were told that the Laurel Police Department did not provide such services, but that is in error. LPD allows its officers to work outside jobs. Was it Hodge who told Sanderson that? Not a stretch to consider.
It also is not a stretch to believe that Hodge has used his role as sheriff to build up his B Clean empire, which would be a violation of Section 1 of the state ethics guidelines.
He also could be in violation of Section 3, which disallows a public servant to be a contractor, subcontractor or vendor with the government agency of which he is a member, officer or employee.
There’s no question that he uses county vehicles and employees to help advertise his business, on the taxpayers’ dime. Every time he hauls those portable toilets for inmates (with a county truck) or poses his deputies in front of a B Clean sign, he’s promoting his business. After two terms in office, it has become clear that Hodge is using his office to empower and enrich himself and his family. That should be untenable and downright unacceptable for every resident of Jones County. With a preacher’s tongue and mastery of Bible verses, Hodge presents himself as a prophet for the good of the people. But with all false prophets, the true motives can be found at what the Bible calls the “root of all evil” — money.
Hodge has won three straight elections with ease. But is this someone we really want leading the dominant law enforcement agency in the county? Is he really looking out for you? Or is he looking out for his own fortunes?
Even if there’s a technicality that helps Hodge skirt the ethics laws, here’s a question we have to ask: Is it right for him to take a $100,000 salary from the hard-working taxpayers of Jones County and not devote 100 percent of his time and effort to that occupation.