Sisson Always Does Things The Right Way (Opinion)

 

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

Howard “Gene” Sisson always does things the right way, at least that is what he kept telling his boss Attorney General Luther Strange. 

According to his termination letter, Sisson admits he wanted to discredit Chief of the Special Prosecution Divison, Matt Hart, but didn’t want to undermine the Lee County Grand Jury.

He admits to secretly recording Acting Attorney General W. Van Davis, but says, that’s o.k.
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The V is Back on ABC in Montgomery

Staff Report

MONTGOMERY—“We are pleased to announce that The Voice of Alabama Politics has returned to ABC 32 in Montgomery,” said The V’s executive producer and host, Bill Britt.

The Voice of Alabama Politics will once again be broadcasting on ABC 32 at 11am every Sunday morning.

“It is no secret that we have taken some advertising hits, because we dare challenge the status quo,” said Britt. “But, that is what journalists are supposed to do, challenge authority, not bend to it.”
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Palmer Applauds Court Decision Blocking Executive Amnesty

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Tuesday, May 26, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request by the Obama Administration to implement its controversial Executive Amnesty Plan.

US Representative Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) released a written statement applauding the ruling:
Rep. Palmer said, “There are three coequal branches of government, not the executive and two subservient bodies. The Fifth Circuit opinion is about more than immigration policy.  It reigns in the abuse of executive power, and tells the Obama Administration, and administrations to come, that overreaching executive orders cannot circumvent the authority to the Congress.”
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Senate Finance and Taxation Committee Gives Favorable Report to Redistribution of Use Taxes

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, May 26, the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee introduced and passed a number of bills that they hope will generate more revenue for the State’s struggling General Fund.

The first of these is not a new tax; but rather moves existing tax dollars from the Education Trust Fund to the General Fund. Senate Bill 496 as introduced by Chairman Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) will increase receipts to the State General Fund (SGF) and decrease receipts to the Education Trust Fund (ETF) starting June 1, 2015, by changing the distribution of the use tax and the remote use tax. Currently the SGF gets 75 percent of the Remote Use Tax and 25 percent of the Use Tax. The ETF only gets 25 percent of the Remote Use Tax, but 75 percent of the Use Tax. Orr’s plan would change that to an even split of each tax 50: 50. According to the Fiscal note the proposed distribution will increase receipts to the SGF by $26,000,000 in Fiscal Year 15 and $80,000,000 annually thereafter and correspondingly decrease receipts to the ETF by the same amounts.
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Attorney General Answers Questions In Hubbard Case

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Speaker Mike Hubbard’s attorney, J. Mark White, issued a subpoena back in March for Attorney General Luther Strange to testify in an evidentiary hearing that never took place.

Hubbard, who is charged by the State with 23 felonies, asked that Strange testify on a number of issues, including why he had appointed W. Van Davis to act on his behalf in the Lee County Grand Jury investigation. 

Hubbard also subpoenaed Gov. Robert Bentley and the Custodian of Records for the Alabama Ethic Commission. Judge Walker ruled in favor of the State’s motion to quash the subpoena for Bentley and the Custodian, but did allow for the defense to question Strange in writing, and limited the questions as to Davis’ appointment.

The 53-question interrogatory with Strange’s answers was filed with the court on Wednesday, and focuses on why Strange appointed Davis to oversee the criminal investigation into Hubbard. 

(See response here.) 

White has filed motions to have the case against Hubbard dismissed, claiming that Strange lacked the authority to have Davis act in his stead. This is a tactic that attorney Bill Baxley tried without success in the Rep. Barry Moore case.

When asked why he recused himself from the investigation Strange wrote, “The investigation concerned Mr. Hubbard’s potential misappropriation of funds when he was the Chairman of the Republican Party through his business, Craftmaster. My campaign used Craftmaster’s printing services.” He also states that the reason for his then Chief Deputy’s recusal was because, “Kevin Turner worked on my campaign.”

White tries to make an issue out of Special Prosecution Division Chief Matt Hart speaking with radio host Dale Jackson. During Hart’s conversation (which Jackson recorded without Hart’s knowledge) Jackson asked, “Why did Luther recuse himself?” White wanted to know if Strange agreed with Hart’s characterization of his recusal, to which he answered, “The statement is materially correct.”

While arguing that Davis lacked the authority to prosecute Hubbard, White also tried to use the Jackson recording as proof of prosecutorial misconduct. 

Hubbard’s attorneys also took issue with the term “Acting Attorney General,” asking what the procedures were for appointing someone to that position. Strange answered, “I asked Davis to assume the investigation pursuant to his powers and authority as a supernumerary district attorney as provided by Alabama Code §§ 12-17-184, 12-17-216, and 36-15-15.”

This section of code has been used by many AGs over the years, without controversy, to appoint District Attorneys to act on their behalf. 

Strange later said, “I often ask district attorneys and supernumerary district attorneys to handle investigations or prosecutions when, for whatever reason, I believe their expertise or resources are needed.”

White also questioned Strange about his signature on the document giving Davis authority over the Hubbard investigation. Strange responded, “I personally signed the original letter represented by Exhibit A in my office on January 31, 2013, which is the date of the letter. I do not recall whether anyone saw me sign the document. Exhibit 1 to this response reflects that a signed copy of the letter was converted to pdf at 4pm on January 31, 2013 and saved to a computer in the Attorney General’s Office.” 

In the interrogatory, White asks, “Are You aware of any discussions between any member of the Attorney General’s Office regarding backdating the document reflected in Exhibit A or backdating any document of any type, including but not limited to any commission, letter, or oath for Davis, Hart, and/or Duffey?”

Strange answered, “No.” 

White has tried to accuse the State of backdating Davis’ appointment, but the meta data on Strange’s State computer proves White’s accusation to be false. 

On several occasions, Strange reminded Hubbard’s defense that their questions, “Call[ed] for legal conclusion outside the scope of deposition.” He also objected to “[v]ague and confusing” questions as well as being “argumentative.” 

Trial Judge Walker as well as Circuit Court Judge Christopher Walker have found that Davis was rightfully appointed. The State Supreme Court rejected a request for an opinion in the Moore case.

Riley SGO Bailout On Special Order Calendar

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Just when it looked like time was running out on a Billion Dollar Bob Barack-Style Bailout, it is back and on today’s House Special Order Calendar.

SB71, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), is said to change some fundamental aspects of the State’s Accountability Act, which was sold as a way to help children escape failing public schools. The primary beneficiary of the revised law would appear to be the Florida-owned SGO led by former Governor Bob Riley (Riley’s SGO is a whole subsidiary of Florida-based Step Up for Students, according to its 990s).
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Austerity Budget Passes Out of Senate Committee

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Wednesday, May 27, State of Alabama agency head after agency head paraded in front of the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee warning about how their agency will be impacted if they are forced to endure cuts to their budgets.

The Senate Committee introduced a substitute version of HB135; but their 2016 budget is still $1.62 billion. About $200 million less than what the budget was for the 2015 fiscal year which ends on September 30.
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What Would Jesus Do?

By Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford  

We are often reminded that this nation was founded on Christian principles, and certainly a majority of the representatives in the Alabama legislature are Christians. So when the General Fund budget, which finances all government services and agencies outside of education, came up for a vote last week, I couldn’t help but think about that popular phrase from the ‘90s, “What would Jesus do?” The “WWJD” phrase has been used to guide Christians through a lot of tough decisions. So it only makes sense that most members of the state House should have asked themselves that question before they voted on that budget.
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Teachers do that

EDUCATION MATTERS
By Larry Lee 

In all the great commotion that is a major part of public education these days (such as bloggers and writers like me who feel compelled to support public schools instead of demonize them, legions of bureaucrats tucked in their cubbyholes staring all day at a computer screen, administrators who scurry from meeting to meeting, elected officials who feel anointed as education experts when they are sworn into office and so many more) it is way too easy to lose sight of the fact that learning is about the interaction of a big human (teacher) with a much smaller and younger human (student).
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Hubbard’s Attorneys Sue DOJ for Hart’s Records

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter 

MONTGOMERY—Speaker Mike Hubbard’s attorneys are suing the Department of Justice to obtain information about the lead prosecutor in his felony corruption case.

The law firm of White, Arnold & Dowd P.C. (WAD) filed a civil lawsuit against the Department of Justice, Office of Professional Responsibility, on May, 20, 2015, “seeking the disclosure and release of agency records that have been improperly withheld…,” the complaint states. 
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