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Alagasco Customers To See Lower Rates

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Tuesday, the Alabama Public Service Commission voted to approve a rate reduction affecting Alabama Gas Company (Alagasco) and its customers.

PSC President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh (R) said in a written statement, “This is a real victory for the consumers. I promised to review all utility rates regulated by the PSC in order to keep utility rates down and, in return, continue to recruit and grow jobs in Alabama. All of these efforts boil down to Alabama families getting to keep more of their hard earned money.”

PSC Commissioner Jeremy Oden (R) said in a written statement, “During the Mobile Gas, Alabama Power, and Alabama Gas proceedings, I have continued my commitment to hear directly from actual rate payers by calling for public proceedings in off-site locations. The public hearing in Auburn for Alabama Gas Company, on September 25th, provided customers the opportunity to speak directly to the company and to me and my fellow Commissioners.”

Commissioner Terry Dunn (R) said of Facebook, “The PSC has long allowed a return on equity above the average equity return for utilities nationally. “That’s why today’s decision was in no sense punitive; it was an example of the PSC doing its job — but a job that’s more than a decade overdue in this instance.”

Oden said that over the life of the revised four year term, Alabama Gas Company customers should see cumulative savings reaching upwards of $50 million. These savings take into account Alabama Gas Company operating at an allowed equity of 56.5%.

Commissioner Oden said, “During the Mobile Gas, Alabama Power, and Alabama Gas proceedings, I have continued my commitment to hear directly from actual rate payers by calling for public proceedings in off-site locations. The public hearing in Auburn for Alabama Gas Company, on September 25th, provided customers the opportunity to speak directly to the company and to me and my fellow Commissioners.”

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The Commission voted to lower the rate of return Alabama Gas Company is allowed to earn by 280 basis points, the same reduction that Mobile Gas Company received earlier this year. This reduction is the largest one-time decrease in an allowed return by a regulated utility in recent history.

Since 1988, the return for Alabama Gas Company has been in a range of 13.15% – 13.65%, with a point of adjustment at 13.4%. The PSC lowered the range to 10.50% – 10.95%, with the point of adjustment at 10.80%.

This is projected to decrease annual Alabama Gas revenue reductions by over $13 million which will be passed on to rate-payers bills. Oden predicted that over the life of the revised four year term, Alabama Gas Company customers should see cumulative savings of upwards of $50 million.

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Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Corruption

Prosecution accepts misdemeanor plea in high-profile environmental administrator’s case 

Bill Britt

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Almost two years ago, Trump administration EPA Region 4 Administrator Onis “Trey” Glenn III, was charged with more than a dozen state felony ethics violations. On Monday, he pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges after reaching a plea agreement with the prosecution.

The plea deal came shortly before Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Stephen C. Wallace was to hear arguments on selective and vindictive prosecution.

According to a statement from the Ethics Commission at the time, Glenn, along with former Alabama Environmental Management Commissioner Scott Phillips, was charged after a Jefferson County grand jury returned indictments against the two on November 9, 2018, according to a statement from the Ethics Commission.

Rather than moving forward with the case, prosecutors dropped the felony charges against Glenn. They opted to reach an agreement to accept a plea on three counts of “unintentional” violations of the ethics code. Glenn received a two year suspended sentence for his actions.

“In the interest of efficiency, we were pleased to take advantage of the opportunity to resolve this matter,” Glenn’s attorney Matt Hart told APR when reached for comment. “My client pleaded to unintentional, misdemeanor violations of the ethics law, and the matter is concluded.”

Questions surround the prosecution’s decision to settle the case for a confession to minor offensives in such a high profile case. Still, from the beginning, the case was marred by allegations that the Alabama Ethics Commission’s lawyers had mishandled the investigation and indictments.

Indictments against Glenn and Phillips were reported by Al.com even before the pair was arrested or served with the indictments.

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In Al.com’s report, Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton said that then- Jefferson County District Attorney Mike Anderton had requested the Ethics Commission help indict the two men.

As first reported by APR, shortly after Glenn and Phillips’ indictments, Albritton and his team’s actions raised serious questions about the process that led to charges against the two men.

APR reported that Albritton and Ethics Commission lawyer Cynthia Propst Raulston approached Anderton, and he did not request help with the case from the commission, as was reported in Al.com.

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Later, APR confirmed that the Ethics Commission approached Anderton contracting Albritton’s public statement.

In a sworn statement given on Feb. 9, 2019, Anderton said it was Ethics Commission lawyers who approached him, as first reported by APR in November of last year.

According to Anderton, in the fall of 2018, Propst Raulston approached him because “she had a case she wanted to present to the Jefferson County Grand Jury.”

He further states, “I told Ms. Raulston that I would facilitate her appearance before the grand jury but that my office did not have the resources to support her case. I also told her that she would have to prosecute the case herself.”

These and other aberrations came into sharper focus when Hart—the state’s most famous prosecutor of his generation turned defense attorney began diving into the particulars of the prosecution’s case.

Glenn’s defense argued from the start that procedural process was circumvented when Albritton and Propst Raulston took the complaint directly to a grand jury rather than the Ethics Commission as prescribed by the Legislature.

An ethics commissioner told APR privately that the commission was never informed about a complaint against the two men, nor was the investigation.

According to internal sources, actions taken by Albritton and Propst Raulston created turmoil at the commission and raised a question about who would prosecute the case on the state’s behalf.

During the process, Albritton, Propst Raulston, and other attorneys for the commission asked the attorney general’s office to take over the case; however, according to sources within the office, the AG turned them down after a review found “statutory problems” with how the case against Glenn and Phillips was handled.

In a motion to dismiss, the defense said, “In sum, the Ethics Commission Staff trampled Mr. Glenn’s rights in obtaining the indictment without giving him his required notice and an opportunity to be heard as required by the Alabama Ethics Act, and then after indictment denied him notice as guaranteed by the Grand Jury Secrecy Act and failed to protect his presumption of innocence as required by the Rules of Professional Conduct.”

While not explicitly noted in the motion to dismiss, the relationship between environmental group GASP and the prosecution was a subject that would have been heard in the hearing on selective and vindictive prosecution.

Immediately following Glenn and Phillips’ indictment, GASP posted a celebratory tweet, even taking credit for the indictment.

“Just so y’all know, Gasp made this possible. We were the ones whose presentation was shared by Glenn and Phillips. We paid for the exhibits in PACER so we could piece this story together. We did the leg work and the organizing. We need your support to keep doing it!” https://t.co/5ubmIMciEQ

— Gasp (@gaspgroup) November 13, 2018

Former GASP Director Stacie Propst is the sister of Ethics Commission lawyer Propst Raulston who presented the case to the Jefferson County grand jury.

While many in the environmental community celebrated Glenn’s indictment, the defense argued the prosecution took an illegal short-cut to indict him, which denied Glenn due process and amounted to selective and vindictive prosecution.

Monday’s plea agreement ended the two-year drama without further exposure as to what happened behind the scene.

Phillips’s case is still pending.

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Crime

Alabama Constable Association: Amendment 2 could defund Constables statewide

Eddie Burkhalter

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If Amendment 2 on the Nov. 3 ballot is approved by Alabama voters, it could pave the way for an end to an office in Alabama with a history in the U.S. that dates back to the 17th century, according to the Alabama Constable Association. 

Chauncey Wood III, president of the Alabama Constables Association, reached by phone Monday referred a reporter to a pending press release from the association. 

Jonathan Barbee, Constable for Jefferson County and the association’s spokesman, said in the statement Monday that the association is concerned with several aspects of Amendment 2. 

If approved, the amendment would process numerous changes to the state’s judicial system, including a change that would allow Alabama Supreme Court, rather than the Chief Justice, to appoint the Administrative Director of Courts.

It would also increase the Judicial Inquiry Commission from nine members to 11 and would allow the Governor, rather than the Lieutenant Governor, to appoint a member of the Court of the Judiciary. The amendment would also prevent automatic disqualification from holding public offices for a judge solely because a complaint was filed with the Judiciary Inquiry Commission. Additionally, it would provide that a judge can be removed from office only by the Court of the Judiciary.

Amendment 2 would also “delete certain language relating to the position of constable holding more than one state office” and Barbee, in his statement, explained that the amendment could defund Constables statewide if counties chose to do so. 

“Constables are not taxpayer-funded, they are largely voluntary Peace Officers,” Barbee said. “The fees they collect from their duties as Officers of the Courts allow them to support the expenses of the office such as vehicles, uniforms, and equipment.  Amendment 2 also deletes the language protecting how Constables are paid by private court fees, leaving it in question for the appointed Administrator to decide.” 

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In Alabama, Constables are elected peace officers and act in many ways as do sheriff’s deputies, able to make arrests, serve court papers and provide security for parades, funerals and the like. 

Amendment 2 was sponsored by Alabama Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur. Orr in a message to APR on Monday said that the portion of the amendment dealing with constables was drafted by an Alabama Law Institute committee, headed at the time by the institute’s deputy director at the time, Clay Hornsby. Orr referred questions about the matter to Hornsby. 

David Kimberley, acting deputy director of the Alabama Legislative Services Agency’s Law Institute, told APR that he took over as acting deputy director since Hornsby’s departure on Aug. 1. 

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If the amendment is approved by voters, Kimberley said that a county that wants to keep their constable they can do so, but that the amendment is an acknowledgement that there are few constables left in the state and “it’s becoming a bit of a, approaching an archaic position or office.” 

“It was noted that only 24 out of the 67 counties currently have constables. Most of all the services of constables are duplicated sheriff’s deputies,” Kimberley said. “And it was essentially just an acknowledgement of what seemed to be a gradual phase out of this office in the state of Alabama.” 

Read Barbee’s full statement below: 

The Alabama Constables Association has joined other law enforcement and conservative groups in urging voters to vote “NO” on Amendment 2 in the general election on November 3rd.

Constable Jonathan Barbee, the Association’s Public Information Officer, said in a statement:

“We’re very concerned about several of the parts of Amendment 2, starting with the overall size and complexity of the Amendment. Typically, proposed constitutional amendments deal with only one or at most a few issues. Amendment 2 proposes SIX different changes to the State Judicial System, some of which drastically change the way we do things in Alabama.

“Amendment 2 could harm small communities by allowing county district courts to discontinue having municipal courts in cities with populations of less than 1,000.  Municipal courts are typically held at night, making it easier for working people to attend.  Without these small municipal courts, residents would have to spend most of a day at the county seat, losing a day of work or being forced to burn a vacation day for something that now is usually settled in an evening. It also indirectly attacks and defunds the Police departments of these towns, because their city courts are a significant source of revenue to help keep Officers on patrol. This part of Amendment 2 strikes at our small communities, drawing power to the larger county seats.

“Amendment 2 also removes the ability of the Legislature to impeach Judges, making the unelected, unaccountable to the people, Court of the Judiciary as the only body that can remove a Judge from the bench. Every citizen in Alabama should be concerned about this, because it effectively takes away their ability, acting through their elected representatives in the Legislature, to remove a bad Judge from their position.

“Amendment 2 allows Judges to continue working when complaints are filed against them with the Judicial Inquiry Commission.  We understand that automatically removing a Judge just because a complaint has been filed can lead to problems and abuses of the system, but these can be settled in a timely manner by the JIC. The alternative, which Amendment 2 will create, would allow Judges who need to be removed to continue hearing cases, and give them a legal basis for fighting their removal. We believe this has the potential for much more serious problems to arise within our courts.

“Amendment 2 could also defund Constables by removing our ability to serve as Constables while also working in another position with the State or County. Constables are not taxpayer-funded, they are largely voluntary Peace Officers. The fees they collect from their duties as Officers of the Courts allow them to support the expenses of the office such as vehicles, uniforms, and equipment. Amendment 2 also deletes the language protecting how Constables are paid by private court fees, leaving it in question for the appointed Administrator to decide. This could effectively defund the Office of Constable statewide, which removes the protection and services Constables provide in their communities at no cost to the taxpayers of Alabama. Over the last year, at least two Constables were responsible for saving several lives during medical emergencies, Constables in Jefferson County have been helping with traffic control and schools, and one Constable assisted with a large drug interdiction arrest. We feel this is an unnecessary and unwarranted attack on the oldest elected law enforcement position in the nation.

“There are other problems with this Amendment. Amendment 2 mandates that the entire Alabama Supreme Court, instead of the Chief Justice, appoint the Administrative Director of Courts. It would be a change from having a single elected, accountable official being responsible for this appointment to having it done by committee. Once the Administrator is appointed they could, in fact, serve a lifetime appointment.  Amendment #2 would also remove the ability of Alabama’s elected Lieutenant Governor to appoint one member of the Court of the Judiciary, giving that ability and more control to the Governor, who already appoints two members.  

“Many of these points are not easy to find, because the forces behind this Amendment have purposefully omitted them from the official documentation provided to the Alabama Secretary of State’s office. If for no other reason than this deliberate obfuscation of the true contents of this Amendment, it should be voted down. The people of Alabama deserve better than this attempt by special interests to radically change how our state’s Judicial system works, mostly as a smokescreen to hide how they will use it to protect bad Judges, inconvenience small-town residents, and make citizens across the state less safe.

“We urge the voters of Alabama to vote ‘NO’ on Amendment 2.”

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Zeta keeps tracking toward the Gulf Coast

Brandon Moseley

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Tropical Storm Zeta is currently in the Gulf after impacting the Yucatan Peninsula. It is currently forecast to impact the Gulf Coast on Wednesday. Currently the maximum sustained winds are 70 miles per hour.

Zeta is moving to the northwest at fourteen miles per hour. Its present predicted track takes it into the northern Gulf of Mexico and impacts the Louisiana gulf coast near Grand Isle, Louisiana as a category one hurricane. It will continue on to Mississippi and Alabama bringing rainfall and isolated severe weather to much of the state of Alabama.

While Zeta is not currently predicted to come ashore on the Alabama Gulf Coast, hurricanes do move and take different routes and that is not completely out of the realm of possibility. Residents of Baldwin and Mobile Counties are advised to watch the weather very closely and have their hurricane plan updated and handy.

ABC 33/40 meteorologist James Spann said, “Most of the rain is displaced to the north and east of the center once inland, and the risk of isolated tornadoes is south of the track.”

Mobile and Baldwin Counties are under tropical storm watch. The tropical storm watch extends east to the Walton/Okaloosa County line in the Florida Panhandle.

Spann warned that winds could gust to 50 miles per hour along the Alabama coast on Wednesday and Wednesday night, and to 45 mph at places like Pensacola and Navarre Beach. Inland, winds up to 45 mph are possible across parts of Southwest and Central Alabama Wednesday night.

Spann said that a few trees could be blown down, but major tree and power line damage is not expected. A few isolated tornadoes are possible over the southern half of Alabama Wednesday night. A “marginal risk” (level 1/5) has been defined.

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Stay away from the water, because dangerous rip currents are likely along the coast from Gulf Shores to Panama City Beach today and Wednesday.

The rain amounts will be heaviest across Southwest Alabama, where three to four inches are expected. Most other parts of Alabama will see one to three inches. Major flooding issues are not expected since Zeta is expected to move along quickly out of the state.
Spann said that most for most of Alabama the significant rain will be over by md-morning Thursday.

The Alabama Gulf Coast is still recovering from Hurricane Sally which came ashore near Gulf Shores in September.

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Barry Moore endorsed by FarmPAC

Brandon Moseley

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Monday, the Barry Moore for Congress campaign thanked the Alabama Farmers Federation political action committee, FarmPAC, for endorsing Moore in next week’s Second Congressional District general election race.

“I’ve always been proud of the fact that I grew up on a farm,” Moore said in a statement. “Farm life teaches you to respect God’s good earth and everything in it. It taught me the value of hard work, and that not everything, like the weather, will always go the way you want it to no matter what you do or how hard you work. That’s something I think a lot of people these days could do with learning.”

“I’m pleased that FarmPAC has seen fit to endorse me in this election,” Moore said. “I’ll continue to be a strong supporter of our farmers and all the businesses that support and rely on them, just like I’ve always been. District 2 is an agricultural district first and foremost, and we can’t forget that.”

“I look forward to working in the next Congress to support Alabama’s farmers and agribusiness by making it easier for them to access new markets and new technologies,” Moore added. “We also need to make sure they aren’t weighed down by excessive regulations and have the backing they need from Washington to compete globally. I have every confidence that, given a chance, Alabama’s farmers can compete with anyone, anywhere. My job in Congress will be to make sure they have that chance.”

To see the complete list of FarmPAC endorsements:

https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#search/Barry+Moore/FMfcgxwKjBPvNlXxGbtPGBVpgbvngvjr?projector=1&messagePartId=0.1

FarmPAC had endorsed Dothan businessman Jeff Coleman in the Republican primary. He was bested by Moore in the Republican primary runoff.

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Moore is the Republican nominee in the Second Congressional District race on November 3rd. He faces Democrat Phyllis Harvey-Hall for the open seat.

Moore is a veteran, small businessman, husband, and father of four from Enterprise. Moore and his wife, Heather, own a waste management business in Enterprise. Moore was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 and re-elected in 2014.

Incumbent Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) is retiring from Congress after five terms.

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