By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) announced Thursday that he has created a new division within the Alabama Attorney General’s Office to fight public corruption within the state. To further this goal Strange launched a major cooperative initiative among state agencies.
The Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Alliance brings together partner agencies to pool their resources and expertise. Attorney General Strange said, “Crimes involving the breach of trust by public officials and employees have a substantial and detrimental effect on the general welfare of the citizens of Alabama, In these times of scarce resources, it is even more imperative that we protect the integrity of our government and of taxpayers’ money. Our partner agencies bring an array of capabilities and expertise, and offer valuable investigative, analytical, technical and legal resources. Working together in this alliance, we will maximize our resources to more effectively combat crimes of public corruption. Those who violate the public trust will be held to account.”
The new Special Prosecutions Division will be led by Special Prosecutor Matt Hart. The new division will include both prosecutors and investigators. The State agencies joining as partners with the Attorney General’s Office in the Special Prosecutions Alliance include the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts, the Ethics Commission, the Department of Revenue, the Department of Public Safety, the Insurance Department, the Office of Prosecution Services, the Alabama Securities Commission, the Department of Economic and Community Affairs, and the Criminal Justice Information Center.
Special Prosecutor Matt Hart said, “Investigating and prosecuting violations of the public trust is one of the most challenging missions in law enforcement. Attorney General Strange has made it clear that this assignment is of the utmost importance to him and to the people of Alabama. Those of us who have been tasked to execute this mission are humbled by the trust and confidence the Attorney General has placed in us. The investigations and prosecutions handled by the Special Prosecutions Division, in conjunction with our AGSPA partners, will be conducted in accordance with the highest standards of professionalism, accountability and impartiality. Those who would violate the public trust can expect to be held to account without regard to political affiliation or position. We will enforce the laws of the State of Alabama, relating to public integrity, vigorously, professionally, and to conclusion in each and every case.”
The AG’s written statement said that the cooperative partnership among the member agencies of the Special Prosecutions Alliance will consist of an advisory committee made up of leadership representatives of the different member agencies bringing the specialized knowledge and skills of each agency. The advisory committee will advise the Attorney General on matters pertaining to special prosecutions and the maintenance of governmental integrity. The Alliance’s stated mission is to “deter corruption and related crimes, and increase confidence in government, by effectively and efficiently investigating and prosecuting significant criminal violations of the public trust.”
In recent years, the state of Alabama has been rocked by numerous prosecutions of public corruption in the state. For example Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford, former Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Al Lapierre, and former Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Bill Blount went to prison for their conspiracy to defraud the Jefferson County taxpayers of millions of dollars in expensive, risky, and unnecessary bond swaps. Other Jefferson County Commissioners, the former Chancellor of the state’s two year college system Roy Johnson, former Governor Don Seigelman, Healthsouth Founder and CEO Richard Scrushy, State Representative Sue Schmitz, etc. have all been convicted in various public corruption trials. State Senators Larry Means, Jim Preuitt, Quinton Ross, and Harri Anne Smith were all recently prosecuted along with prominent gambling magnate Milton McGregor in two public corruption trials where the juries found all the defendants not guilty.
Almost all of the corruption investigations in the state in recent years have come from the U.S. Department of Justice. The “feds” have aggressively investigated and uncovered most of the public corruption found in the state. The Alabama Attorney General’s office has often appeared to be less involved in these sorts of issues. Luther Strange raised this issue when he ran against then incumbent AG Troy King (R) in 2010. Strange promised that the state Attorney General’s office would be more active in these sorts of investigations and would prosecute public corruption wherever it is found in Alabama.
To read the press release in its entirety: