A WVUA-TV news story said that there were over 10 unrelated fraternity brothers who were newly registered to vote using the same address – 42 University Circle. The student who actually lives at the house says his Sigma Nu fraternity brothers don’t live there but used his address to register to vote.
Sigma Nu was Tuscaloosa City Council member Matt Calderone’s house. The University of Alabama’s Machine, a secret political coalition of traditionally white fraternities and sororities, endorsed Calderone. Calderone was unopposed in the municipal elections, largely due to the way District 4 was redrawn.
An article in The Tuscaloosa News reported: “Matt Calderone, a recent UA graduate and the councilman-elect for District 4, said he knows many of the students involved and that two of the 11 actually live at the home. He said the others live in District 4 but listed their mailing address, instead of their physical address, because they misunderstood the voting form. Calderone said he urged the students to file the change of address form. . .”
Lee Garrison was aided by the University of Alabama’s Machine in his successful bid for a seat on the Tuscaloosa City Council in 1997. At the time of his initial campaign for a Council seat he was still an undergraduate and President of the University’s Interfraternity Council and a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.
That was the same year that his former wife and candidate for the Machine Jessica Medieros won the contest for the University’s Student Government Association President with 59% of the vote. She was a Phi Mu. In 1997, after a three year absence at the University, candidates from The Machine and JUSTICE ( Joining University Students Together in Cooperative Effort ) coalition contended for student government offices.
There are accounts of University co-eds having asked, as they were getting off the van that carried them to the polling place for the municipal election in 1997, who they were supposed to be voting for. They were then reminded that they should vote for Garrison.
In 1998 when Garrison was on the Council he attempted to influence a vote that would have allowed the Tuscaloosa School Board to become an elected body. As a strategy to get more student voters, a straw poll on alcohol sales was included in the ballot. He drove the Board of Registrars crazy by submitting an overwhelming number of student registration applications at the last moment.
Tuscaloosa’s current Mayor Walt Maddox who was the local director of the Alabama Educational Association in 1998 told the Tuscaloosa News, “It’s no coincidence that the nonbinding referendum votes include alcohol sales. That would be the single most motivating factor to bring college students to the polls. It is also no coincidence that Mr. Garrison. who serves on the City Council, is registering voters to vote not only on the alcohol issue but also on the elected board referendum. I would imagine that Mr. Garrison is instructing the students to vote against an elected school board.”
Garrison, who is now campaigning to be the Chair of the School Board, is involved with the Educate Tuscaloosa Political Action Committee ( ET PAC ) that is supporting three School Board candidates who are challenging the incumbents. These challengers have received over 85% of their funding from the ET PAC. While saying virtually nothing about the qualifications of the incumbents, the ET PAC candidates have in lockstep called for a change in the way the School Board operates. Their criticisms of the School Board have been inaccurate, misleading and out-dated. Both Garrison’s campaign and the ET PAC are tied to Montgomery’s Franklin Resource Group, LLC, lobbyist and political operative Mike Echols.
ET PAC candidate Cason Kirby is running for a seat on the School Board in District 4 which was Lee Garrison’s old Council district. District 4 was recently redrawn to give University students more clout. Kirby was a former President of the University’s Student Government Association and a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. Kirby denied that he had anything to do with the fraudulently registered fraternity members in District 4 but he, like Garrison, is counting on the Machine vote to win. Should Kirby succeed he will unseat the current highly regarded District 4 School Board member Kelly Horwitz.