Questions arise over Phenix City Councilman's pardon

By Taylor Barnhill  - bio | email

PHENIX CITY, AL (WTVM) -  Phenix City council member Arthur Sumbry Sr. is preparing for his trial on felony forgery and perjury charges brought up against him earlier this year.

This is a battle he has fought in court before after being accused and later convicted of similar crimes in the early 1980's. Up until this point, many believed he had been pardoned by Alabama Governor Fob James following the conviction, but News Leader Nine has new information that puts that pardon in question.

Arthur Sumbry Sr. has been a Phenix City Council member, on and off for nearly 30 years. Now, News Leader Nine has learned, he may have been a convicted felon the entire time.

Archives show in 1980, Sumbry was convicted of unlawful voter registration and in 1981, he was convicted of perjury. But he has always maintained he received a pardon from the Alabama Governor for those crimes in 1982.

This pardon is important because on and off for the past 25 years Sumbry has run for and held public office in Phenix City -- and according to the local probate office, a resident is not qualified to run for elected office if they are a convicted felon, unless they've received a pardon.

So, News Leader 9 investigated the existence of this pardon.

The Russell County Probate Office -- where Sumbry would have to register to run for office -- has no record of any pardon.

We called the Alabama Department of Pardons and Parole -- they also tell us there is no record of Arthur Sumbry receiving a pardon.

We even asked Sumbry's attorneys for a copy of the pardon since they mentioned that he received one in the pre-trial hearing yesterday.  Their response: "I cannot share any documents out of our files due to attorney client confidentiality."

So what's at issue is this -- the Russell County Probate Office says to qualify for the ballot a candidate cannot be convicted of a felony.

If this pardon in question was never issued, that means Arthur Sumbry Sr. has been serving illegally as a city council member for years.

If Arthur Sumbry is convicted of perjury and forgery charges again, his position on city council would be terminated. A Russell County jury will make that decision when his trial starts on August 29th.

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