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Analysis | Matt Hart’s dismissal raises a number of questions, some with national implications

Prosecutor Matt Hart and defense attorney Bill Baxley have a conversation over objections in court during the Alabama speaker Mike Hubbard trial on Tuesday, May 31, 2016 in Opelika, Ala. (Todd Van Emst/Opelika-Auburn News/Pool Photo)
Chip Brownlee



The forced resignation of Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart — the head of the Alabama attorney general’s public corruption unit who is widely known as the most feared man in Alabama politics — has raised a number of serious questions about ongoing investigations, some of which have national implications.

Hart’s resignation, which was hastily forced Monday morning, sources have told APR, comes at a time when President Donald Trump’s appointee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s operations in the Southeast was recently indicted along with a former Alabama Environmental Management commissioner.

The administrator, Trey Glenn, who was one of Trump’s first appointees to the EPA, resigned Monday after he was indicted last week on ethics charges in Jefferson County.

Though the indictment is being handled by the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office and was announced by the Alabama Ethics Commission, Hart and his team, who generally handle high-profile public corruption cases, were overseeing a special grand jury investigating some of the same issues that led to Glenn’s indictment.

Glenn and Scott Phillips, the other defendant in the case, were witnesses in the federal corruption trial involving a severely polluted site in Birmingham and efforts to buy out Alabama politicians to oppose its clean up.


It still isn’t clear why Hart — who was still overseeing that special grand jury empaneled in Jefferson County at the time of his dismissal — wasn’t the lead on the new indictments, which still have not been publicly filed, or why Ethics Commission Executive Director Thomas Albritton directed the case to the district attorney instead of going through the more typical procedure of a commission vote, considering Hart’s team already had a grand jury empaneled in Jefferson County.

The commission could have then sent findings to the AG’s office or a DA to be brought before a grand jury.

Albritton has said the district attorney’s office requested the Ethics Commission’s involvement in a letter. But multiple sources have told APR that it was the Ethics Commission who approached the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office in an effort to grab headlines before Hart’s team could investigate the pair properly.

The commission has been heavily criticized in recent years for punting ethics cases to local DA’s, avoiding handing cases to Hart’s team and taking increasingly more lenient approaches to campaign finance violations, which culminated earlier this year in a decision from the Commission giving itself the authority to collapse FCPA violations into fewer counts and less fines.

Only a week after Glenn and Phillips’ indictment was announced, Attorney General Steve Marshall forced Hart out from his post as the top public corruption prosecutor in the state.

It’s been reported that Marshall had already begun moving resources away from Hart’s special prosecutions division over his first year in the office, and the two have had an adversarial relationship since Marshall took an appointment from former Gov. Robert Bentley.

Since then, Marshall has taken campaign contributions from some of former House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s most frequent supporters, some of his business investors and witnesses in his corruption trial, which Hart prosecuted.

Hart is well-known for his track record prosecuting tough public corruption cases. He and his team convicted Hubbard in 2016 on 12 out of 23 ethics violations, and all but one of those charges were upheld by the Court of Criminal Appeals earlier this year. Hart was also investigating Bentley when Bentley agreed to resign and pleaded guilty to two campaign finance violations in 2017.

It took less than two weeks after Marshall won his first full term for him to force Hart out, a development that has come as no shock to most in Montgomery’s political circles who knew of their contentious relationship and a welcome move for many politicians who feared Hart and his team.

Marshall’s office has given no reason for Hart’s resignation, saying it doesn’t comment on personnel matters.

But those who are tuned in know Hart has had a particular knack for picking battles with powerful politicians. When he began investigating Hubbard, Hubbard was widely considered the most powerful person in Alabama politics and the most heavy-handed speaker in recent Alabama history. And his prosecution didn’t just target Hubbard, it angered his powerful friends and supporters who were forced to testify at his trial and were mentioned in the charges, many of whom are the big-dollar donors who fund Republican campaigns.

Before becoming the AG’s chief corruption prosecutor, he was a federal prosecutor who rose through the ranks tackling tough cases. He prosecuted Jefferson County commissioners, former Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford and officials within Alabama’s community college system.

National media have also taken note of Hart’s dismissal. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who has followed Alabama corruption cases since Hart prosecuted the former Alabama House speaker, highlighted the developments on her show Tuesday.

Hart’s hasty ouster leaves several special grand juries without a prosecutor to guide them, and it leaves Hubbard’s ongoing appeal, which is making its way to the Alabama Supreme Court, in question.

At the time of his removal, Hart was believed to be overseeing at least two grand juries, one in Jefferson County and another that is believed to remain empaneled in Lee County. It isn’t clear whether Hart’s grand juries will continue their hearings now that he is no longer at the AG’s office.

The Jefferson County grand jury had already indicted the heads of the Birmingham Water Works Board and former Jefferson County District Attorney Charles Todd Henderson, who was convicted on a first-degree perjury charge, and Hart was making his way through other parts of the government in Jefferson County.

Marshall announced Tuesday that federal prosecutor A. Clark Morris, who has served as an assistant U.S. attorney and acting U.S. attorney in Alabama’s Middle District, would replace Hart as the division’s chief. She’ll be the one who will now oversee all of these ongoing grand juries and investigations.

Morris has largely prosecuted drug crimes during her 20-year tenure at the Department of Justice in both the Northern and Middle Districts of Alabama, though she also served in the Middle District’s white collar crime unit.

She is expected to take over the AG’s special prosecutions division on Jan. 7.


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Governor appoints two deputy chiefs of staff

Chip Brownlee



Gov. Kay Ivey appointed two deputy chiefs of staff Wednesday as she prepares to begin her first full term as governor. In addition to naming two chiefs of staff, which is relatively uncommon, Ivey also made other changes to her top staff.

“As the governor moves forward in implementing her vision for the state, she believes these changes to her staff will be crucial to most effectively serve the people of Alabama,” the governor’s office said in a release.

Adam Thompson is being promoted to deputy chief of staff for policy, joining Liz Filmore, who is serving as deputy chief of staff for administration. The governor’s office said having two deputy chiefs of staff will help to improve organization, structure and focus among the staff.

Thompson is currently the governor’s appointments director, having managed her political and bureaucratic appointments. In Thompson’s new capacity, his experience will be beneficial to the governor in executing her policy and legislative agendas. Both deputies will report to chief of staff Steve Pelham.

“Alabama is experiencing great momentum, and in my full term as governor, I plan to be ambitious in growing on our successes and tackling our challenges. My recent appointment of Jo Bonner to Senior Advisor, in addition to these staff changes, will be instrumental to best execute my vision for Alabama,” Ivey said. “Everything we do in the Ivey Administration is a team effort, and I am very proud of that.”


Catherine Gayle Thrash is being promoted to serve as director of appointments. Thrash is currently the governor’s confidential assistant. Thrash managed judicial appointments and will continue to do so along with managing all of the governor’s appointments.

William Filmore, who currently serves as legislative liaison, will now take the additional role of director of local government relations. In addition to his current responsibilities, Filmore will be the governor’s liaison to cities and counties.

“Adam, Liz, Catherine Gayle and William are valuable assets to my staff, and I look forward to continue working alongside them to better serve the state of Alabama,” Ivey said.

These appointments are effective Dec. 16, 2018.


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Bill Britt

Opinion | Can Alabama’s one-party system deliver for all the people?

Bill Britt



Alabama is a one-party state.

For 136 years, the Democratic Party was the sole governing body which ruled the state under a one-party system. Voters switched sides in 2010, and now there is one-party control by Republicans.

Of the many problems created by a one-party system are the elimination of checks and balances, disregard for the minority population, a tendency for tolerating corruption within the controlling ranks and ignoring best practices because they may be ideas that come from the opposition.

Alabama is in dire need of men and women in positions of political power and influence who can see beyond the second ripple in the pond and who will do what is right, not based on party, but a deep abiding loyalty to our state.

Far too often policy items are ill-conceived, half-baked-by-products of some other state’s solutions or a national narrative that isn’t in the best interest of the people of our state.


Best policy is written using fact-based information tailored to the needs of the state.

As lawmakers gear up for the 2019 Legislative Session, it might be fair to ask, “What do in-coming Republican lawmakers stand for today?”

One freshman legislator recently said that he is coming to Montgomery to help President Trump build the wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Far be it from me to question the gentleman’s motivation or IQ, but if I’m correct, the state Legislature does not have any say over a border wall, unless he thinks we need one in Mobile.

We have some excellent women and men at the State House, but there are a few who have no business deciding what’s for lunch, much less what is best for the people.

The state has many challenges which include weak income growth which is only improving because the national economy is rolling along, prisons that are a disgrace and under federal lawsuits, an infrastructure which is crumbling and self-dealing that is on the rise.

Republicans, like the Democrats before them, have not adequately addressed these systemic problems because with one-party rule, no one is pushing them to do better.

Perhaps the lack of real change is understandable given that for six of the last eight years, the Republican-led government was controlled by a delusional governor and a crooked Speaker of the House.

Former Speaker Mike Hubbard is going to prison, Gov. Robert Bentley is out of office and still out of his mind, so going forward, the state will know if Republicans can actually lead.

Republicans have a chance to lead; will they?

Without a strong opposition party, Republicans, like Democrats of the past, have no reason to compromise or build a coalition between the two parties. Therefore, in many instances, what is best for the state is hampered by groupthink or a slavish devotion to a national party orthodoxy that offers scant solutions to Alabama’s most pressing problems.

The state’s voting population is arguably at 60/40, with Republicans holding a commanding majority over Democrats as evident by the state’s last general election.

In his essay “Party dominance ‘theory’: Of what value?” Raymond Suttner notes, “The notion of a dominant party, usually described by those who deploy the concept, as a theory or a system, refers to a category of parties/political organizations that have successively won election victories and whose future defeat cannot be envisaged or is unlikely for the foreseeable future.”

Republicans occupy all 29 statewide offices and control more than two-thirds of both the House and the Senate; Alabama is a one-party state.

If the state succeeds, Republicans can take credit. If it continues near the bottom in every meaningful measure of success, then they should be held accountable.

One-party government is fraught with problems, not the less of which is a failure to deliver good government for all the people because they don’t have to worry about reelection.

Alabama should expect more, but do we?

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ACLU, NAACP make demands of authorities following Hoover police shooting

Brandon Moseley



Thursday, the ACLU of Alabama and Alabama NAACP filed public records requests to police departments in Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery, Hoover, Huntsville, and Saraland for their use-of-force policies, body camera policies, and racial bias training materials, following the Thanksgiving shooting of Emantic “E.J.” Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. and other incidents where excessive use of force has been accused in Alabama.

The civil rights groups said that they are calling for “transparency and accountability.”

“Far too often, the concept of ‘reasonable force’ has been distorted to justify police officers killing or seriously injuring people of color for indefensible reasons,” stated ACLU Alabama policy analyst Dillon Nettles. “The death of EJ Bradford by the Hoover Police Department is a reminder of the tragic loss a family and community faces when law enforcement utilizes lethal force.”

“Law enforcement must implement transformative reforms that build public trust and lead to humane, equitable, and constitutional policing in all communities,” Nettles said. “We plan to fight for that transparency by collecting policies, practices, and data for departments across the state in the hope that it leads to greater accountability for violations of law, policy, and community trust.”

“Too many of our young black males, in particular, are being shot and killed like animals and no one is held accountable,” said Alabama NAACP President Bernard Simelton. “These tragic scenes must stop. The people in our communities deserve to know the policies and procedures that Law Enforcement Agencies use when engaging individuals with weapons. The NAACP has advocated for use of body cameras by police officers so that the community could see really what happened, but when Law Enforcement refuses to release the video to the public, it does not help the situation. It is as if the video was never taken.”


In addition to E. J. Bradford, they cited: Chikesia Clemons, a Black woman wrestled to the ground and exposed for making a complaint at a Waffle House in Saraland; Ulysses Wilkerson, a Black teenager, beaten and hospitalized in Troy; Sureshbhai Patel, an elderly Indian man, slammed to the ground in Madison; and Greg Gunn, a Black man shot and killed walking home in Montgomery.

Simelton and Nettles claim that incidents of excessive and oftentimes lethal force, particularly towards people of color, is an epidemic. The Washington Post reported that 987 people were shot and killed by police in 2017.

They did admit that police officers do not see a systemic issue. A Pew Research Center poll released in 2017 found that two-thirds of the nation’s police officers believe the deaths of Black Americans during encounters with police are isolated incidents and not an indication of broader problems between law enforcement and the Black community.

They claim in a statement that this, “Disconnect between law enforcement and Black people shows that culture shifts and internal reform of police policies are needed to prompt agents of the law to foster a positive, trusting relationship with the communities they serve. Given this recent tragedy, Alabama law enforcement must be held to the same principles of transparency and open decision-making that other government officials accept as a condition of operating in a democratic society.”

The public records request is available at:

On Wednesday night, protestors crowded the Target store in Hoover. Several groups are protesting Hoover because of their view that the slaying of E.J. Bradford by a uniformed off-duty Hoover police officer at Hoover’s Riverchase Galleria in the moments following a shoot over some shoes was unjustifiable. The Bradford shooting is still under investigation by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA).

Some individuals have called for a boycott of the city of Hoover.

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Alabama’s marks 199 years as a state on Friday

Brandon Moseley



Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey will join the Alabama Bicentennial Commission on Friday to kick off Alabama’s bicentennial year countdown.

Alabama officially became the nation’s 22nd state on December 14, 1819. In one year, on December 14, 2019, Alabama will celebrate its 200th anniversary as a state.

Gov. Ivey will mark the occasion with an Alabama Bicentennial Year Announcement at 10:00 a.m. at the Old House Chamber of the Alabama State Capitol.

Economic developer and Alabama historian Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “What does it mean to have an unwavering commitment to our state? It is recognizing that every county in Alabama is a priceless treasure, encompassed with an abundance of history and heart.”

“The Alabama 200 initiative provides an opportunity to recognize the people, past and present, who have shaped our state,” Nicole Jones continued. “Talented folks across generations and from various walks of life have utilized their gifts to make Alabama a special place, the best state, to live. Each of our 67 counties has experienced significant events as they pertain to societal, cultural, economic, and technological history. The three—year Bicentennial celebration serves as an educational opportunity as well as a way to engage residents to participate in civic and community events and record historic accounts for future generations. It is almost as if we are creating a three-year time capsule that encompasses the past 200 years.”


“Any person or company can participate in the bicentennial in a myriad of ways. Alabama Public Television, for example, has contributed by producing Alabama Legacy Moments – 30-90 second video segments that showcase Alabama people and places, which entice viewers to further explore our state,” Nicole Jones added. “APT made the video clips, which feature original music by Bobby Horton and content from the Encyclopedia of Alabama, available free of charge for all commercial radio and television stations. Alabama’s Federal Road, the US Space and Rocket Center, Bear Bryant, Freedom Rides, DeSoto Caverns, the Longleaf Pine, and Luther Leonidas Hill’s contributions to medicine are just a few topics highlighted.”

“Another special exhibit currently making its way through Alabama’s 67 counties is Making Alabama, A Bicentennial Traveling Exhibit presented by the Alabama Humanities Foundation with support from Alabama Bicentennial Commission and Alabama Department of Archives and History,” Nicole Jones continued. “The exhibit uses a combination of artifacts, storyboards, storytellers, festivals, photographs, and kiosks to highlight Alabama from 1819 through today.”

Nicole Jones concluded, “The study of history provides us an opportunity to bridge the past with the present, learn what works and learn from mistakes, formulate hypotheses, and make informed decisions that hopefully will allow us to gain confidence in the future. We all are part of Alabama. Let us each take a moment to participate in our own unique ways and share our history, our story, with others.”
Alabama became a Territory on March 3, 1817 following the defeat of hostile Creeks in the Creek Indian War.

The stated mission of ALABAMA 200: “Is to support, create, and execute events and activities that commemorate the stories of our people, place, and path to statehood. Between 2017 and 2019, ALABAMA 200 will engage residents and visitors in educational programs, community activities, and statewide initiatives that teach, inspire, and entertain.”

To learn more, click here.

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Analysis | Matt Hart’s dismissal raises a number of questions, some with national implications

by Chip Brownlee Read Time: 5 min