By Faye Gaston
The name of Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill is familiar to readers of the Union Springs Herald newspaper due to his official visits to Bullock County regarding state and federal elections, especially working with Bullock County Probate Judge James Tatum in overseeing elections.
The recent highly publicized scandals surrounding Merrill include having a mistress, legal assistant Cesaire McPherson, for three years; her accusations of his using a state car and state cell phone to carry out their meetings; and her accusations that he called African-Americans "the coloreds." Another woman has alleged oral sex with him in 2010 in depositions in her divorce case, online, newspaper, e-mails, and blogs.
The scandal includes radio host Matt Murphy accusing Merrill of lying when he denied the extra-marital affair with McPherson. Merrill, age 57, said in his denial that she (age 44) was "stalking and harassing him."
He then admitted to adultery with McPherson after Al.com played a 17-minute recording of a phone conversation in October 2020 between him and McPherson as they discussed various sexual acts in explicit detail that they performed on multiple occasions between November 2017 and November 2020. (She stated that some were in the bed he shared with his wife. He married Cindy in 1985, and they have two children.)
Merrill also denied the allegations by the second woman and denied calling African-Americans "the coloreds."
Merrill served in the Alabama House of Representatives from 2010 to 2014 and is presently serving out his second term as Alabama Secretary of State since 2014. Term limits cancel out a third term.
He was expected to announce running for the U.S. Senate to replace Richard Shelby upon his retirement.
Merrill told AL.com that "there's no excuse" for his conduct outside his marriage. He said, "I will obviously not be a candidate for the United States Senate nor will I be seeking any other elected position in 2022, because I think it's important to me to make sure that I become the man that I have been before and that I am working to put myself in the position to be the leader that I have been before, as a husband, as a father, as a friend, and as an elected official."
The statement from his office read: "With the end of my term coming up in January of 2023, I have been presented with a variety of options for where my path in public service could lead. I have decided that I will not be a candidate for any office in 2022."
The statement from Alabama Governor Kay Ivey read: "It is always unfortunate when someone in public life, especially an elected official, betrays the trust of his family, his constituents, and those who have supported him. My thoughts and prayers are with all who have been negatively impacted by these poor decisions and bad choices."
As of press time on April 13, there was no response from requests for statements from Bullock County Republican Club president Claire Austin or Bullock County Probate Judge James Tatum.