The 1901 constitution was approved by the Alabama Legislature, including provision 118. that requires constitutional officers, including the Governor, Attorney General State Auditor, Secretary of State, State Treasurer..it lists all of the consitutional officers---and it says they all shall reside in the state capitol during the time they remain in office, except, except during epidemics."
Over the years some constitutional officers have paid lip service to that provision, they rented small apartments and called them their home. secretary of state beth chapman filled out campaign finance forms and put down 600 dexter avenue, the address of this building, the state capitol."
Chapman was recently appointed to the University of Montevallo Board of Trustees, so we attended her first meeting on May 2nd...
"can we grab you for a few minutes, perhaps after your board meeting? you can grab for for a few minutes now...your office was helpful to us in providing your montgomery address......i'm here for a board meeting today and the university of montevallo and i really think its appropriate that i give them my time we...we've been trying to get an interview with you for a long time now..and we can't seem to get one...."
We wanted to ask about where she really lives......and about her work schedule. We had been told repeatedly by sources that she neither lives in Montgomery nor spends much time at her Montgomery office. Mark Kennedy was chair of the Democratic party during the 2012 election cycle:
"i think that probably she spends most of her time either on the road or in birmingham or in shelby county running her publishing company, she's as you now, an author, running this non-profit organization for which she is paid, and probably spends very little time here in montgomery. i've never seen. had the opportunity to visit with beth, here in montgomery, nor has my staff and on many occasions we have commented on the fact that our secretary of state on most days if not all days, is missing in action here in Montgomery."
we tried for weeks to get an interview with Chapman, eventually being told flat out by her chief of staff that an interview was not going to happen:
"I did talk to Miss Chapman and she just said that she'd made a decision not to do any sit down interviews at this time, and not about her future plans or anything like that, so i don't think it's going to work out for your interview her."
During our months long investigation, we looked for Chapman's state car in her marked parking spot in front of the statehouse, but never saw it. nor was she at work in her capitol office when we stopped by one day. We went to what she calls her legal residence in Hoover one day and found her at home at nine a-m, saying she was home sick.
"Ms. chapman...oh, you must be sick!
I'm very sick.
I'm so sorry...."
Back in Montevallo on May 2nd, when the Board of Trustees meeting ended. we tried again...
"Your office told us about the residence you have in Montgomery that belongs to a relative who is in a long-term convalescence, but in your files that you filed with your own office, campaign finance reports, you listed 600 Dexter Avenue as your residence.." No my ethics committee report says my address. i have a legal address in Shelby County and I have an address in Montgomery and always have. there are two residences because of the law.
"How often are you in Montgomery?"
"As often as i need to be."
We then went to the Montgomery address that the Secretary claims as a residence, but the neighbors we spoke with said she's not there often:
"Could I ask if you've ever seen this person around here? Would you mind? no. Do you recognize her at all? no.
"Have you ever seen this woman here? I think so but i don't think she lives here. no? she spends the night at ????across the street but that lady's in a nursing home.."
chapman says family issues have limited her presence in montgomery.
"I've had surgery recently and I had a recent illness that I've overcome. iIve had an immediate family member who's been hospitalized and had an illness, so I've been here enough as i need to be...24-7 and that's all I can tell you.
"Would you say you're there more than once a week?"
"Of course, of course...
"Are you there every day?"
"i'm not going into that i'm not there every day. today i'm in montevallo, you are in Montevallo with me. it's a statewide office..".
Alabama News network polical analyist Steve Flowers says some other office holders are excluded from the live-in-Montgomery rule:
"There are some statewide elected officials who are not living or who do not show up for work that are not required to. the public service commission members are, for example, not required to live in Montgomery because they are really statuary and not constitutional. our Supreme Court judges are not required to and some of them indeed do work out of their homes in homewood and other enclaves where they live."
chapman's term in office will end in 2015. she announced recently she will not run for governor, but won't say what else she might do.
Previous Alabama Secretaries of State we spoke with...Democrat and Republican...said they rented apartments or homes and lived in them during their terms of office.