By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Last Thursday, the State House was buzzing with rumors and questions about Speaker Mike Hubbard’s (R-Auburn) consulting contract with the Southeast Alabama Gas District. Even though the contract is over a year old, a recent press release by the company brought the questionable arrangement to light.
The contract with SEAGD signed January, 2012, pays Mr. Hubbard $12,000.00 a month for economic development.
According to filings, the Southeast Alabama Gas District (SEAGD) is a public corporation created on January 29, 1952, under Act Number 762, General Laws of Alabama. It was established to provide natural gas service to domestic, commercial and industrial customers located in 32 communities in the southeast portion of the state.
In announcing Hubbard’s position the company said, the “Board Retains Auburn Network and Mike Hubbard to help market [the] region to site selectors, prospective companies.”
According to the same press release, “Ozark Mayor Billy Blackwell, who served as chairman of the SEAGD board, said the District is well-positioned to be a catalyst for regional economic development.”
The stated reason for hiring Hubbard was to, “increased efforts to recruit new jobs, support local industries and better market natural gas.” Blackwell also said that the gas district wanted to, “partner with state and local leaders to move our region forward.”
Who would be a more useful partner than the man considered to be the most powerful politician in the state? Mr. Hubbard has a his history of not only enriching his partners but he also seems to benefit greatly from his positions. Just as he did when he was Chairman of the ALGOP and received hundreds of thousands of dollars for his printing company Craftmaster. Or the many other occasion when money flowed from the ALGOP and other PACs into campaigns and then back to Hubbard-owned businesses.
Concerning the SEAGD contract, Hubbard and the company sought the input of the State’s ethics commission. Writing for the commission, legal council Hugh Evans, III, said, “The only potential issue that we saw would be if something came before the legislature that uniquely affected the Southeast Alabama Gas District differently than it affected all other utilities around the State of Alabama. Should this happen we would expect that speaker Hubbard would have plenty of notice in which to remove himself from discussions, votes, etc.” Perhaps the key words in the commission’s finding are, “uniquely affected.”
SEAGD is a quasi public-private entity that is owned by 14 municipalities. They are Abbeville, Andalusia, Brundidge, Dothan, Elba, Enterprise, Eufaula, Fort Deposit, Greenville, Headland, Luverne, Opp, Ozark and Troy work in cooperation to provide their communities with natural gas service and numerous opportunities for economic growth. SEAGD also provides natural gas service to the franchise communities of Ashford, Baker Hill, Brantley, Coosada, Cottonwood, Daleville, Gantt, Glenwood, Level Plains, Midland City, Montgomery, Napier Field, New Brockton, Newton, Newville, Opelika, Pike Road, Pinckard, Red Level, River Falls and Rutledge.
Everyone of these municipalities will have occasion for local legislation to come before the Alabama House of Representative. All legislation that would affect these municipalities would come before Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. Has Mr. Hubbard removed himself from every occurrence in which one of these 14 municipalities had an issue before the government?
As Speaker and consultant, what safeguards has Mr. Hubbard put in place to insure that he does not show favoritism to one municipalities over others? What safeguards did the Ethics Commission set in place to ensure that Hubbard would not use his influence?
The Ethics Commission did say that, “The general prohibition continues to apply, in that the Speaker may not use his position or mantle of his office to assist him in obtaining consulting opportunities or providing benefits to his consulting business or his clients. Otherwise other than this we see no problems.”
How does Mr. Hubbard put off the mantle of Speaker? How does the office he holds not come into play when he meets with potential customers of SEAGD? A position of such political power cannot be discarded as one would a coat or hat. Mr. Hubbard who has a State provided personal bodyguard and is a highly recognizable public figure is not seen by business entities as just “good old Mike.”
A former prosecutor who asked not to be named said, “This contract stinks on its face. Who is going to believe that the Speaker of the House is going to be seen as just another businessman?”
On March 05, 2013, Wiley Lott was named Director of Economic Development and Governmental Affairs for SEAGD.
The press release also said, “Rep. Mike Hubbard and Billy Joe Camp will continue to serve as Economic Development Consultants for The Southeast Alabama Gas District. “The Speaker and Mr. Camp have served this company well and I will draw upon their experience and knowledge as we seek new opportunities for economic growth in the communities we serve,” Lott said. Even Lott referred to Hubbard as Speaker. If Lott recognizes him as such, is it not fair to believe that a conflict of interest or at least the mantle of his office is in consideration?
It has been said that Mr. Lott will receive around $300.000 in annual compensation. Mr Camp is said to receive around $90.000 and Mr. Hubbard receives $144,000 for his efforts. This means SEAGD is spending over half a million dollars a year for three economic development professionals.
According to Hubbard’s contract he is to, “submit monthly written reports of his activities in form and substance acceptable to SEAGD on or about the 15th day of each month but not later than the third Tuesday of each month.” A request to review these contracts was ignored by SEAGD. Mr. Hubbard is also expected to turn in expense reports, these also were denied.
The question stirring around the State House on Thursday, was how does Mike Hubbard separate his $12,000 a month consulting job from his influence as Speaker of the Alabama House?
No one seems to be clear on the answer.
Judge refuses to dismiss Roy Moore lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen
A federal judge last week refused to dismiss a lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen, Showtime and CBS filed by former Senate candidate Roy Moore.
Federal Judge Andrew Carter last week refused to dismiss a lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen, Showtime and CBS. The lawsuit was filed by former U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore and his wife Kayla Moore, who claim that Cohen slandered Moore as a pedophile on his now-canceled show “Who is America?”
After the judge denied Cohen’s request to dismiss the $95 million lawsuit, the case will now proceed to discovery, where the Moores announced that they intend to take the depositions of and obtain evidence from Cohen and other relevant individuals at Showtime, CBS and their related entities.
The Moores had put the defendants on notice that if they aired the offensive and defamatory interview by Cohen, who posed in disguise as an Israeli Mossad agent, that they would be sued for large damages. When the defendants did not heed the warning and aired the interview anyway, the Moores brought their lawsuit.
The case is being litigated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York after it was transferred over a year ago from a federal court in Washington D.C.
“We are gratified that the Court is allowing the Moores’ case to go forward and we look forward to putting Cohen and the other defendants under oath,” said Larry Klayman, founder of Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch, and a former federal prosecutor. “The alleged defamation of Chief Justice Moore was malicious and despicable and it is time that a jury of the parties’ peers allow justice to be done. Great harm has been caused to my clients, which must be addressed and remedied.”
In 2017, Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme court, was the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. The Washington Post released an investigation that alleged Moore sexually abused young women in the 1970s. Moore denied the accusations.
Sessions: Tuberville’s fraud scandal “can’t just be swept under the rug”
Jeff Sessions criticized Tuberville’s actions as a “major fraud scheme that bilked large sums of money from hardworking people,” which “can’t just be swept under the rug.”
After The New York Times published an investigation into a financial fraud scandal involving Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, his opponent, former Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, criticized Tuberville’s actions as a “major fraud scheme that bilked large sums of money from hardworking people,” which “can’t just be swept under the rug.”
“This is an astounding story,” Sessions said. “Based on the facts already uncovered, it is clear that Tommy Tuberville was one of two partners in a major hedge fund fraud scheme that bilked large sums of money from hardworking people, including Alabamians.”
Tuberville’s partner was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the scheme by the court in Opelika, while Tuberville was sued for fraud, paying out a sum of money in a private settlement that has been kept out of the public eye.
“This can’t just be swept under the rug, and Tuberville can’t just brush it aside by falsely claiming he was some innocent victim,” Sessions said. “Indeed, he was a victimizer and held himself out as the ‘managing partner’ of the firm. Tuberville must give a full and complete accounting of this scandal. The people of Alabama deserve to know the complete truth now, before the election, about the man who is asking to be their senator.”
This scandal has been widely talked about in Republican circles for months or longer, but The New York Times article details the allegations for one of the first times in the national spotlight.
Tuberville became a full partner in a hedge fund with former Lehman Brothers broker John David Stroud. Their ventures included TS Capital Management and TS Capital Partners. The T stands for Tuberville and the S for Stroud.
Tuberville did not pick which stocks to buy or sell, and as the head football coach at Texas Tech University and later at the University of Cincinnati, he was not even a frequent presence in the office. Tuberville introduced Stroud to potential investors and even had business cards identifying himself as managing partner. He also leased a BMW and got his health insurance through the company.
The firm’s offices in Auburn were filled with his coaching memorabilia. In 2010, he traveled to New York with Stroud to meet potential brokers, and was kept in the loop on decisions about hiring. A source told APR that a number of SEC coaches were among the people defrauded by TS Capital.
When the money was all lost, Stroud was sentenced to 10 years in prison and Tuberville was sued by the investors for fraud and failure to carry out his fiduciary duties. Tuberville reportedly lost $450,000 of his own money and then had to pay out more than $1 million to the investors. The New York Times reported that his total losses were more than $2 million.
The financial scandal has many Republicans concerned about the viability of Tuberville’s general election campaign to unseat incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama.
“I think that Tuberville did not do anything wrong,” said Rev. John Killian, a conservative activist. “He is a good man, but the Doug Jones campaign, they would use this to the ninth degree.”
“They will shoot Tuberville up in 30 second and 60 second TV spots,” Killian added. “I don’t think Tuberville is crooked, but Doug Jones has $10 million to spend. I think they are lying in wait for Tuberville like they were for Roy Moore.”
Killian said that he will support Tuberville if he wins the Republican nomination, but that he is supporting Jeff Sessions in the primary because he is the strongest general election candidate to face Jones.
Tuberville supporter and Trump Victory National Committee member Perry Hooper Jr. was dismissive of assertions that Tuberville could be vulnerable.
“Coach has a commanding lead. He will win the run-off, and he will crush Doug Jones in the general election in November,” Hooper told APR.
Tuberville maintains that he was a victim of the fraud — not a perpetrator.
“They sued me because I invested in it, and he used my name to get other people to put money in,” Tuberville said. “There was nothing ever implicated by anybody that I’d done anything wrong. I felt bad that he used my name.”
The New York Times has asked Tuberville to release the plaintiffs from their confidentiality agreement. Tuberville to this point has declined. Stroud has been released from prison but has not commented on his relationship with Tuberville. Tuberville faces Sessions in the July 14 Republican runoff.
President Donald Trump has endorsed Tuberville, and Tuberville is leading Sessions in most available polling.
Lauderdale Republicans pass resolution defending Florence Confederate monument
Lauderdale County Republicans responded to calls to take down a local monument by passing a resolution urging elected leaders to oppose its removal.
The Lauderdale County Republican Executive Committee passed a resolution Thursday, by a unanimous vote, urging the Lauderdale County Commission and Florence City Council to take a stand and defend the Confederate monument in Florence.
The monument was erected to Alabamians who fought and died for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. A growing number of people today say that they fought to defend slavery and that Confederate monuments instead are symbols of white oppression over Black Americans and should be removed from public places.
The Lauderdale County Republicans responded to these calls to take down their local monument by passing a resolution urging elected leaders to oppose removing the monument.
The Lauderdale County GOP said in a statement that they are taking “a stand against the ‘cancel culture’ Marxists and passed this resolution.”
“We are urging the Lauderdale County Commission and Florence City Council to honor their oaths of office and follow the law! We are also calling on all of our elected officials to declare their position on the matter,” the statemeant read.
The resolution states that, “The Lauderdale County Monument to the men of the County who served in the Confederate Army in the War between the States 1861-1865 fought against oppressive taxation and for states’ rights in an army that included African-Americans in support and combat roles, was dedicated in 1903 and has stood in front of the county courthouse for 117 years.”
The resolution alleges that: “There is a movement of liberal and radical organizations, not representatives of the majority of citizens of Lauderdale County which currently are attempting to destroy the record of the courage and sacrifice of our ancestors in the United States.”
The cities of Birmingham and Mobile have already taken down their Confederate monuments in open defiance of existing state law in the state’s Memorials Preservation Act.
Prichard Mayor Jimmy Gardner to run for reelection
Prichard Mayor Jimmie Gardner said Monday in a statement that he will run for re-election. Gardner announced that he will deliver the letter announcing his intention to seek re-election, along with all qualifying documents, to the Prichard city clerk today at 10 a.m.
Gardner will hold a press conference after qualifying. He is promising to provide additional information about the campaign next week.
Gardner’s qualifying letter simply reads: “To Whom It May Concern: I, Jimmie Gardner, on this date, July 6, 2020 do humbly submit this letter to affirm that I will be seeking the office of Mayor for the City of Prichard, Alabama in the 2020 election.”
Gardner was elected mayor in the 2016 municipal elections, defeating incumbent Mayor Troy Ephriam.
“I have spent my entire career over 35 years protecting and serving the community in which I love,” Gardner stated. “My mission as Mayor is to ensure that the City of Prichard receives the recognition that it deserves. We are a strong, resilient people who care about their neighbors and want to see our city move in a positive direction.”
“As your Mayor, I pledge to give 100% to ensure that the progress this city deserves will begin,” Gardner continued. “I am not promising an overnight fix, but in time through prayer, hard work and dedication from everyone, The Change Will Come! Please patiently work with us as we make critical decisions for the betterment of the City of Prichard.”
The city of Prichard is in Mobile County and had a population of 21,531 in 2018. The city of Prichard had a population in 1993 of 38,410, but like much of Alabama, outside of pockets of prosperity, has been in decline in recent decades.
Prichard was incorporated in 1925. The city boomed from ship building and the paper industry in the 1940s and 1950s, peaking like Mobile in 1960, but since then, the city has been negatively impacted by the decline in American shipbuilding and the closure of the International Paper and Scott paper mills in the 1980s.
Improving roads made it easier for people to commute to work so much of the city’s middle class has moved to new developments outside the city limits.