By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—At the beginning of September, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) announced that his company, Auburn Network, was ending its contract with the Southeast Alabama Gas District (SEAGD). Hubbard was hired as an economic development consultant for SEAGD at a fee of $12,000.00 a month.
The cancelation of the contract was made known to various news organizations by Hubbard’s Statehouse communications director Rachael Adams.
Adams is a state employee who is pai $5,000.00 a month to act as a spokesperson for the Speaker.
Having a taxpayer-paid employee answering questions about Hubbard’s personal business seems somehow out of line with the Alabama Ethics Commissions ruling on using the Speaker’s Office with regards to the SEAGD contract.
In her statement Adams said, “Auburn Network, Inc. recently asked the Southeast Alabama Gas District to void their agreement with our company because of unfounded criticism being generated by politically-motivated liberal groups in Montgomery. Auburn Network is confident that the economic development contacts, leads and prospects it developed while working with SEAGD will soon lead to more jobs, industry and opportunity for the citizens of the Wiregrass region.”
In her statement to the press, Adam’s seemed to be speaking for the Auburn Network not for the Speaker of the Alabama House.
After Adam’s press statement, the Alabama Political Reporter sent a note to the Ethics Commission asking, “If his [Hubbard’s] activities with the SEAGD are to be separate from the Office of the Speaker, then is it appropriate for his taxpayer-provided communications director to be answering questions and writing press releases on behalf of Auburn Network and Mike Hubbard, the citizen?”
Last Friday, we received a reply from the Ethics Commission’s general counsel, Hugh R. Evans, III.
Evans wrote, “The ‘unfounded criticism’ that Ms. Adams is referring to obviously impacts on the operation of the Speaker’s Office. Ms. Adams was contacted by the press at the Speaker’s Office. This would appear to be a statement prepared by the Speaker and/or SEAGD for Ms. Adams to relay to the press in an effort to lessen the distractions to the operation of the Speaker’s Office, caused by press inquiries being made to the Speaker’s Office.”
In her statement, Adams did not attempt to identify the names of any of the so-called politically-motivated groups that were attacking Hubbard, or what might be the content of the unfounded criticism.
About the same time as Adam’s assertion of unfounded criticism making the rounds, white-collar criminal defense attorney J. Mark White was hired by Hubbard to send letters to those who may be making slanderous or libelous statements about the Speaker.
White has sent only one letter that we can confirm and that was to a self-proclaimed conservative republican.
SEAGD had been paying Hubbard $12,000.00 per month over the last two years for his consulting work.
The Alabama Political Reporter first brought the contract to the public’s attention in April 2013.