Connect with us

News

Taxpayers continue to pay Bentley’s legal bills

Josh Moon

Published

on

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

Alabama taxpayers have forked out more than $100,000 over the last 15 months to pay for attorneys defending former Gov. Robert Bentley, one of his former cabinet members and a state employee in a single lawsuit, billing records obtained by APR show.

Much of the money was spent after Bentley and former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency director Stan Stabler were no longer employed by the state.

“According to state law, all state employees and officials are entitled to legal representation paid for by the state’s self-insurance fund (the General Liability Trust Fund, or “GLTF”) whenever they are sued in their individual capacity for damages arising out of their acts or omissions committed while in the performance of their official duties,” a spokesman for Gov. Kay Ivey said. “Coverage from the fund continues even after the employee/official is separated from service as long as it relates to conduct that occurred during state service.”

Bentley, Stabler and ALEA attorney Michael Robinson are being sued by former ALEA director Spencer Collier, who is alleging the three men, along with Rebekah Mason, conspired to force Collier out of his job and then worked to ruin him professionally and financially. Mason’s attorney’s fee are apparently not being paid by the state, since she was not working as a state employee at the time of Collier’s dismissal.

Advertisement

If Collier is successful in his lawsuit — and a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge is set to rule on a motion to dismiss Friday morning — monetary damages, or a settlement, up to $1 million would be paid out of the GLTF as well.

Ivey’s office noted that she has no control over the payouts, except to ensure attorneys bill at no more than the state’s maximum rate of $195 per hour.

According to the bills, attorneys John Neiman and Richard Trewhella stuck to the $195 rate.

Neiman, who works for the law firm Maynard, Cooper & Gayle, in Birmingham, charged the state $43,097 in 15 months — June 2016 through August 2017 — to represent both Bentley and Stabler.

APR only received bills from Neiman, but at a hearing in the case on Monday, Bentley and Stabler were represented by three attorneys from Maynard, Cooper & Gayle. It’s unclear if the $43,097 is the total for all three attorneys or only the billing from one of the three.

Trewhella, working for the Atlanta firm of Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete and representing Robinson, billed the state $66,814 for work between February and August this year.

Bentley resigned from office in early April. Stabler was pushed out by Ivey just a few days later. Since then, their attorneys have cost taxpayers at least $17,500, not counting the three most recent months.

 

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

Continue Reading

Featured Columnists

Opinion | Police are not above public scrutiny

Josh Moon

Published

on

Why are police above public scrutiny?

That seems to be a relatively new thing in this country, and it is a particular problem in Alabama — this notion that the general public has no right to even question a police officer’s actions.

We’re hiding body cam footage. There are very few regular citizens on cities’ police review boards. Some cities are hiding cops’ personnel files, despite that being one thing that Alabama Open Records Act laws specifically covers.

And if ever a cop is questioned … whoooo, boy! There will be shame and ridicule, and the full weight of city government will be brought down to protect the Brother in Blue.

It’s nonsense.

Advertisement

And it’s happening every day in this state. There are, specifically, two egregious cases active now — one in Huntsville, one in Montgomery. In both instances, city cops have been indicted on murder charges.

In Montgomery, the victim was black and walking through his neighborhood late at night. In Huntsville, the victim was white and police were responding to a mental health call.

In both instance, the county district attorneys — who each have to work with the police departments in those cities — reviewed the evidence and determined that enough existed to seek indictments. And in both cases, a grand jury issued those indictments.

That would seem like enough reason for the mayors of the respective cities — Todd Strange in Montgomery and Tommy Battle in Huntsville — to back away and allow the justice system to work.

They have not.

Battle last week asked his city council to cover the legal expenses for William Darby, the cop accused of murder. The council agreed unanimously, although it did put a $75,000 cap on expenses — a cap Battle said he disagreed with.

In Montgomery last year, following officer A.C. Smith’s shooting of Greg Gunn, Strange implemented an unprecedented city-led review, and he promised to allow Smith to remain on the MPD payroll, receiving his full salary and benefits, as he awaits trial.

Seriously consider the facts of these two situations.

In Huntsville, the taxpayers are footing the bill for private attorneys, when they are already paying for court-appointed attorneys for anyone who can’t afford legal representation. Apparently, public defenders are good enough for poor, mostly minority regular folks — even when they are accused of murder — but not good enough for cops.

In Montgomery, even as other city employees have been immediately terminated after their arrests for various offenses — all of which fall well short on the moral scale of murder — Smith remains fully paid.

When questioned about this early in the case, Strange said he wanted to wait on more facts to come out at hearings before making a decision on terminating Smith. A couple of weeks later, at a hearing, a State Bureau of Investigations officer testified that Smith admitted in interviews that he had no probable cause to stop, pat down, chase, strike, Taser or shoot Gunn.

That was not enough for Strange.

Nor was it enough when a second Montgomery judge proclaimed after an immunity hearing last month that he didn’t find Smith to be credible during his testimony.

In Huntsville, Battle cited a clearance by the HPD Incident Review Board as his primary cause for supporting Darby so vigorously.

He should be careful, because I can’t find a single incident in which the HPD review board didn’t clear an officer in a shooting. That includes a number of shootings in which the suspect was unarmed, and several in which other law enforcement officers also engaged the suspect and didn’t fire a shot.

In 2015, for example, Orlondon “Dre” Driscoll was shot by HPD officers after he exited, unarmed, from a car he was accused of stealing. The review board cleared the officers, saying that while Driscoll was unarmed, his hand made a motion as though he was pulling a gun.

It’s absurd.

And here’s the thing: In most cases, there is body cam footage of the incident. There’s certainly footage of the Darby shooting. But these same mayors and city governments and police departments have fought like hell to hide those videos from the public — the same public that pays the salaries of the officers.

In Montgomery, while there is no video — because Smith “forgot” to turn on his body cam — Strange has refused to release the findings of the city-led investigation into the Gunn alleged murder.

His reasoning: he doesn’t want to taint the jury pool. Which is not, as far as the law goes, an accepted exception under the  

Look, cops have a tough job. Yes, they are mostly heroic individuals who deserve our praise and admiration.

But you know what, it’s not like the job’s a mystery at this point.

We’ve all seen “Cops” on Fox and watched a thousand cop shows and reality cop shows on TV. If you sign up to be a cop in 2018, you know what you’re getting into, and you know the pay.

So, let’s stop pretending that the cops who have committed horrible acts of aggression and assault — and even murder — against the citizens they’re supposed to protect are somehow overwhelmed by the toughness of the job. Because that’s insulting to the 99 percent of cops who manage to not do anything illegal or dumb every day.

 

Continue Reading

News

St. Clair County Democrats to hold executive committee elections on Saturday

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Saturday, the Alabama Democratic Party will hold an organizational meeting including its elections for the St. Clair County Democratic Executive Committee. The meeting will be at the Ashville Ballroom from 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm.

St. Clair County Democratic Party Chairman Herbert Kuntz told the Alabama Political Reporter that the County Democratic Executive Committee has eight representatives from each of the four county commission districts. There are also two young Democrats (under age 40) and two minorities from each of the four commission districts. Ideally the CDEC is composed of 48 though in recent years it has been a struggle for the Democrats to maintain those numbers.

“St. Clair County is one of the reddest counties in red state Alabama. Hence maintaining and building the base and fielding good candidates is and has always been a challenge,” Kuntz stated.

Kuntz has been criticized by some within the party most notably legislative candidates Carl Carter, Jared Vaughn, and Nicki Arnold who released a public statement critical of the county leadership.

Alabama Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Worley is expected be in Ashville to personally preside over the County Executive Party elections.

Advertisement

Worley was recently re-elected as Chairwoman by the Alabama State Democratic Executive Committee, successfully defeating a challenge from Alvin “Peck” Fox. Worley is an educator, the first woman to ever Chair the Alabama Democratic Executive Committee, a former Alabama Secretary of State, and a former President of the influential Alabama Education Association.

Normally members of the County Democratic Executive Committee are elected by Democratic primary voters like the party’s nominees for office; but when qualifying ended St. Clair County party officials neglected to submit a list of executive committee candidates to the probate judge, Mike Bowling (R).

“St. Clair County has no county executive committee,” Carter told APR. “For months, I have been called a liar and had my motives questioned for saying out loud that this would be the case. Last night, the state chair said it outright: County chairs were required to certify candidates and election results to the Probate Judge (as I said from the beginning). Our chair did not do that.”

Chairwoman Worley said in a statement, “IF YOU DID NOT CERTIFY THIS LIST TO THE PROBATE JUDGE, YOU DO NOT HAVE A COUNTY COMMITTEE.”

“We’ll have a committee by the end of the day Saturday,” Carter said. “The dawn is finally approaching, clearing the way for a new and properly elected party in St. Clair County.”

Kuntz said in a written statement that the statements by the three disgruntled candidates, “Appears simply to be a personal attack on the Chair of the St. Clair County Democratic Executive Committee and his wife based on unsubstantiated and distorted claims.”

Kuntz said that Carter had not been on the Committee long enough to know the history of the Committee, including the election of members and officers and their efforts to expand the Party within the County. “If I were Carl I would be spending every minute going face to face with as many voters as I could telling them why I am better that Jim McClendon.”

Carl Carter is running against incumbent State Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) in the November 6 general election.

Senate District 11 includes portions of St. Clair, Talladega, and Shelby Counties.

Every elected position in St. Clair County is currently held by Republicans. Republicans hold 60 percent of the elected positions in the state of Alabama.

Continue Reading

National

Jones expresses concerns over Trump Administration policies

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Monday, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) held a town hall event at the historic A.H. Parker High School in Birmingham.

“It was because of the incredible work that you did that I am here representing as the first Democratic Senator to represent Alabama in 25 years,” Sen. Jones said.

“The first thing I did was co-sponsor a bill to re-authorize the CHIP (Child Health Insurance Program) program.” Jones said that CHIP’s renewal, “Was definitely related to what we did on December 12.”

“We are losing healthcare in our rural areas left and right,” Sen. Jones said. “I talk about the need for Alabama to expand Medicaid. The two things I have done is to introduce a bill to call a lot of folks hands on this Medicaid issue.” Jones said that his bill would require them to give a study every year on all the good things Medicaid expansion has done in other states as well as all of the dollars being lost in states that did not expand Medicaid. “I have introduced another bill with Senator Warner to roll back to where we would have been with the original Affordable Healthcare Act.”

Sen. Jones said that President Donald J. Trump’s (R) Administration has done a lot to “sabotage” the Affordable Care Act. “They are doing everything in their power to, as the President said, to just let it blow up. There is only so much we can do with a slim minority. Elections have consequences.”

Advertisement

Jones said that Texas is suing to overturn the provision of the Affordable Care Act outlawing pre-existing conditions and the state of Alabama has joined the lawsuit. “The Department of Justice under Attorney General Sessions is no longer protecting the ACA.”

Jones said that Trump’s tariffs, “Were ill advised.”

“NAFTA really hurt Alabama, when it first passed.” Jones said. “Textiles moved overseas or shut down.” Trump instituted a tariff on automobiles, but also on automatic parts. “Mercedes changed the trajectory of Alabama’s economy. Alabama is the third highest producer of automobiles behind Michigan and South Carolina. The trade war that he is escalating with China is really hurting. I have been very outspoken about this.”

“Soybean prices have gone down and pork prices have gone down,” Jones said.

Jones said that he has cosponsored legislation with Senator Alexander from Tennessee to make the administration prove that tariffs are needed for national security.

“Those BMWs and Mercedes are not a national security threat,” Jones stated.

“I have co-sponsored about 90 bills, 80 of them are bipartisan,” Jones said. “There is more bipartisanship in Congress than you see on CSPAN. We passed an opioid bill unanimously out of committee that I hope will get to the floor of the Senate.”

“It is very important that EPA takes another look at that North Birmingham site,” Sen. Jones said. “Mayor Woodfin did the right thing,” when he asked the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider adding the 35th Avenue Superfund site to the National Prioritization List.

Jones said that both he and U.S. Representative Terri Sewell (D-Selma) have both sent letters the EPA asking them to reconsider the decision not to place the 35th Avenue site on the SuperFund prioritization list.

“The EPAs decision not to place the site on the NPL was understandable given the level of opposition,” Jones said. We now know however that that decision was undermined by an illegal misinformation campaign.
“Residents deserve better from their federal state and local government,” Jones said.

State Representative Mary Moore (D-Birmingham) said, “The people of North Birmingham are suffering and nobody has talked to us. Nobody has called a meeting with the citizens in the affected areas. I filed the original complaint in 1989, again in 2005 and again in 2009.”

Jones asked the crowd if they wanted to hear Mary speak on, “Or do you want to have a town hall?”

“I was not a U.S. Senator when all of that was going on,” Sen. Jones said.

Jones did acknowledge when asked that he was the attorney for disgraced state Representative Oliver Robinson (D-Birmingham) early on in that case. Jones said that there was a point in that process where Robinson went from defending to cooperating with the investigation to expose wider corruption; but that he could not go into details.

On Saturday, Doug Jones nominated Alvin “Peck” Fox to be Chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party. The Alabama State Democratic Executive Committee rejected Jones’s nominee and instead re-elected incumbent Nancy Worley to another term.

“We have got to have a party that exercises leadership and we don’t have that now,” Jones told the people at the town hall. The state party needs to be sending field operatives out to the candidates to ask them what they need and needs to be active on social media. “We don’t have that. Our party is sitting on $850,000 and they have not done anything with that. There are only two people down there (at Democratic Party Headquarters in Montgomery).”

“Our party is fielding the best set of candidates it has fielded in 20 years,” Jones said. “This is not going to be a giant blue wave.” It is a gradual process. “We have not played a longball game. It starts with the efforts of the candidates. I have believed for many years, that we as a state can only progress if we have a viable two party system.”

An audience member asked if we were on the verge of a third world war.

“I don’t think we have been on the verge of a Third World War, but what has been happening with Russian interference in our election is putting this Democracy in great peril,” Jones said.

Jones said that the Russians had been working “To sow discord, to make sure that they promoted one part of society against another one. The ability of the Russian government to influence this coming election if frightening.”

“One of the problems is that the President is conflating the terms collusion with interference,” Jones said. “We do have some sanctions going on, but whatever we are doing is not enough.”

“They are also looking at interfering with the power grid,” Jones added.

Jones was critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin and added, “When you see the President cozying up to him at Helsinki you should be concerned.”

Jones also addressed the North Korea situation.

“I was disappointed that the President cut out those military exercises in South Korea before seeing Kim Jung-un did what he said he was going to do and we are now seeing information that he is not doing what he sees he is doing,” Jones said.

Senator Jones also discussed the Robert Mueller investigation.

“The president calls this a hoax and that is dangerous,” Jones said. “The Russian interference is not a hoax and Robert Mueller need to finish his job no matter where the chips may fall.”

A constituent asked if he would vote to impeach Rod Rosenstein,

“That would be a constitutional crisis,” Jones said. “That is not going to happen. I have seen absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Rod Rosenstein has done anything to impeach him over.”

Jones also discussed the Farm Bill and the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation.

Continue Reading

National

Brewton has been awarded a $2.8 million EDA grant

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Wednesday, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced that it has awarded $2,800,000 to fund infrastructure improvements for the City of Brewton. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R), Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) and U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) made statement praising the grant award.

“As a result of this grant, the South Alabama region will have the opportunity to foster future growth and economic advancements,” said Senator Shelby. “I am proud that the City of Brewton is receiving the funding to support necessary water infrastructure improvements, which will enhance the local business community, increase economic diversification, and drive current and future investments.”

“Great news for Brewton! The U.S. Department of Commerce is awarding a $2.8 million grant to help improve infrastructure,” Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said in a statement. “The project is expected to create 300 jobs and spur $5.9 million in private investment. Thank you to President Donald J. Trump, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and the U.S. Economic Development Administration for their continued support of rural America. In order to thrive economically, our communities need safe, reliable, and modern infrastructure, and this grant will ensure that Brewton has the infrastructure necessary to attract and retain new industry.”

“As the President has said, countless towns and cities throughout the United States are in need of new and updated infrastructure,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “Brewton’s water and sewer upgrades will aid the local commercial community, providing further growth and new jobs to the region.”

“I thank Secretary Ross and the Department of Commerce for making this grant possible,” said Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R). “To the members of the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission and the Alabama Tombigbee Regional Commission, thank you for your work in submitting this grant request and all you do to improve the infrastructure and increase economic development possibilities in your area. This grant will surely mean more jobs and more investments in our great state. We are committed to improving the lives of Alabamians and the receiving of this grant is a huge leap forward.”

Advertisement

The grant will fund the construction of new water and sewer facilities to serve the City of Brewton and outlying areas in the region. This will include the construction of water and sewer infrastructure that will adequately supply and benefit a new high tech business in the area. Additionally, it will upgrade and expand the existing services currently available to allow future growth and economic development.

EDA grants are awarded through a competitive process based upon the applicant’s merit, the applicant’s eligibility, and the availability of funding.

Brewton is the County seat of Escambia County.

Continue Reading

Authors

Advertisement

Facebook

Advertisement

Trending

Taxpayers continue to pay Bentley’s legal bills

by Josh Moon Read Time: 2 min
0