Alabama ethics commission director receives international ethics award

The Council on Governmental Ethics Laws earlier this month awarded Alabama Ethics Commission Director James L. Sumner Jr. the 2013 COGEL Award, the highest recognition by the international organization.

Sumner received the award at COGEL’s 35th annual conference in Quebec, Canada. COGEL is an organization of federal, state, county, and municipal agencies in the United States, Australia, Canada, England, Mexico, and several Baltic nations, COGEL said. The professional organization is for government agencies, organizations, and individuals with responsibilities or interests in ethics, elections, campaign finance, lobby laws, and freedom of information, according to a release.

Sumner, the state Ethics Commission director since 1997, was nominated by Birmingham attorney Gregory P. Butrus of Balch & Bingham LLP. Butrus is co-chair of the Business Council of Alabama’s Judicial and Legal Reform Committee and is the founder and immediate past chair of the Elections, Ethics, and Governmental Relations Section of the Alabama State Bar.

“The COGEL Award, which is the organization’s highest form of recognition, is conferred annually upon an individual who has, over a significant period of time, made meaningful and positive contributions to the fields of campaign finance, ethics, freedom of information or lobbying,” the award’s release said.

Former Gov. Bob Riley was one of seven persons who wrote letters of recommendation. “Reform would not have been possible without Jim Sumner,” Riley wrote of the 2010 Ethics Law update.

COGEL President Greg Essensa presented the award to Sumner, who was joined by Butrus at the ceremony.


Council on Governmental Ethics Laws President Greg Essensa, left, presents the 2013 COGEL Award to Alabama Ethics Commission Director James L. Sumner, center, earlier this month at the COGEL’s 35th annual conference in Quebec, Canada. Birmingham attorney Gregory P. Butrus, right, of Balch & Bingham LLC, and co-chair of the Business Council of Alabama’s Judicial and Legal Reform Committee, nominated Sumner for the award. (Contributed photo) 

“This is an extraordinary honor for me and for the Alabama Ethics Commission,” Sumner said. “It recognizes all of the hard work that has been done over the last 10 years to enact significant reforms into the Ethics Law. It could not have happened without the strong support of the 24 commissioners I have been privileged to work with and a truly dedicated staff of professionals.”

During his tenure, Sumner played a critical role in overhauling Alabama’s Ethics Law including the granting of subpoena power, mandated ethics training, tightening lobbying expenditures, and expanding the availability of on-line documents

-Dana Beyerle