Former Acting Finance Director wants an exception

June 8, 2017

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

Former Acting Finance Director Bill Newton intends to open a consulting business. So, he asked the Alabama Ethics Commission to grant him permission to use his years in government service as leverage to provide professional services/advice, request information from public officials/employees, to aid his potential clients, all the while ignoring that there is a two-year ban on such activities.

Newton’s attorney Joel Dillard said to the commissioners, “I believe there’s no real disagreement between the commission staff and between Mr. Newton, on what the answers to all four questions are; which is ‘no.’ The only real problem is the final one, number 4.”
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Gov. Ivey’s Legal Advisor’s State filings lists, debt, income, and more

May 2, 2017

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

After taking the oath of office to become the 54th Governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey said, “The Ivey administration will be open, transparent, and honest.”

Gov. Ivey’s top Legal Advisor, Bryan Taylor, listed his total personal indebtedness for 2015, between $600,000 and $850,000. His salary was around $145,000, with at least $55,000 paid by his wife’s company. His ethics filings do not reflect the $55,000. And the administration appointed Taylor under a classification that allows him to return to his merit position after leaving Ivey’s service.
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More bailing on failed software

November 15, 2016

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

For over a year, Governor Robert Bentley repeatedly received warnings concerning the many technological and systematic failures under the leadership of Acting Finance Director, Bill Newton, and his assistant, Rex McDowell.

The time and attendance management system eSTART is just one of several software solutions to fail so badly; it had to be abandoned. A recent letter from State Health Officer Thomas M. Miller, M.D., informed the staff of the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), that eSTART would no longer be used to report time and attendance.
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Hearing Wednesday in Zeigler’s challenge to Bentley’s $47 million STAARS software

September 21, 2016

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Wednesday, September 21, a hearing will be held in a lawsuit challenging Gov. Robert Bentley’s (R) controversial $47 million no-bid contract for the purchase of the ,much maligned STAARS software.

State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) filed suit alleging that the massive no-bid contract violates Alabama’s bid laws and the software does not work. He is asking that the contract be voided and that the purchase money returned to the State’s General Fund.
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Carter Returns to Finance in Troubling Times

August 29, 2016

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Former Deputy State Finance Director, Clinton Carter, is returning to the government service to advise on revenue and financial policy.  According to sources in Governor Robert Bentley’s inner circle, and those with close ties to Finance, Carter is being groomed to replace Acting Finances Director, Bill Newton. Reliable insiders claim Newton hand-picked his successor to ensure access to the department, and those who are well-tended by cushy contracts doled out under his watch. But there is doubt that Carter is that pliable.
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Attorney General’s Opinion Decides Round One in Technology Turf War

August 3, 2016

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—An Attorney General’s Opinion issued July 29, confirms the State Personnel Board (SPB) and the State Personnel Department (SPD) have the specific authority to “promulgate the manner by which State agencies are to maintain time and leave records.”

The legal definition of promulgating means, “to formally proclaim or declare a new statutory or administrative law as in effect, after it receives final approval.”
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Lawsuit Filed Over STAARS

July 22, 2016

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—A lawsuit was filed late Thursday night in Montgomery Circuit Court, over the $47 million dollar black hole known as STAARS.

At the heart of the complaint is the no-bid contract entered into by Governor Robert Bentley and the State Department of Finance. The suit brought by State Auditor Jim Zeigler, who is suing in his official capacity and as an individual, will go before Montgomery Circuit Judge William Shashy. In the complaint, Zeigler is also representing, “a class of all taxpayers whose taxes are funding payment for the illegal STAARS contract.”
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Is eSTART the New STAARS?

July 19, 2016

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Even though the shoddily implemented STAARS accounting software is still causing major headaches for agencies and vendors, the Department of Finances is doubling down on a troubled new time and attendance system named eSTART.

All agencies, major and minor, are reporting unanimously: eSTART doesn’t lives up to the hype.

eSTART is the State’s name for the Kronos time and attendance program that, according to the company’s website, “makes easy work of the tedious tasks involved with monitoring employee time and attendance… simplified time-tracking software — working in tandem with our data collection devices — helps you control labor costs, minimize compliance risk, and improve workforce productivity … without breaking a sweat.”
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PEEHIP Board Raises Health Insurance Premiums on Education Employees

April 29, 2016

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Wednesday, April 27, the PEEHIP (Public Education Employees Health Insurance Program) board voted 7 to 6 to increase the monthly health insurance premiums for education worker and retirees insured by the plan.

Beginning on October 1, 2016 single plans will see a $15 a month rate increase. Family plans will be increased by $30 each month. A vote to utilize up to 10 percent of the PEEHIP Trust to offset the rate hikes was defeated on a 7 to 6 vote.
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STAARS Still Failing Alabama

April 20, 2016

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—The $47 million no-bid software package known as STAARS, a statewide government accounting system, is now going to require more full-time staff at the Department of Finance, according to a presentation made to agency heads last week.

SEE HANDOUT

The multi-million dollar system, touted as a cost-saving measure, will also need additional outsourced programers, according to the report.

The trouble with STAARS came to light after this publication reported on the failed implementation in December 2015.  The State’s new payment software had left hundreds of thousand of dollars in arrears, with thousands of vendors waiting months for payments.
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