By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
April Fools Day 2014 will likely be a day Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mike Hubbard will always remember.
That day, one week ago, Representative Greg Wren, R-Montgomery, was arrested and convicted of using his office for personal gain.
Wren obtained confidential Medicaid documents from the Legislative Fiscal Office and illegally provided them to executives at RxAlly, a company from which he received $8,000 a month under a consulting contract.
Representative Wren also successfully introduced language into last year’s General Fund Budget that gave RxAlly’s affiliate, American Pharmacy Cooperative, Inc., a complete monopoly over some Medicaid programs in the State, a move that provided thousands of new customers to pharmaceutical companies.
The full details of Wren’s “prescription for Alabama,” including a narrative timeline of the actions that led to his conviction can be viewed here.
Alabama Political Reporter covered the addition of the monopolizing language, a total of 23 words, back in July of 2013, just after its passage, before any other news organization.
The charge that Wren was convicted of, though, only a misdemeanor, was light, given the crime, due to one fact: Wren entered into an agreement with the Attorney General’s Office in which he fully waives his fifth amendment rights in the matter and agrees to testify on demand in any grand jury proceedings in Lee County.
The agreement, which can be seen here, details at length the actions of Wren in relation to the insertion of the language. It also specifies that Wren stipulates to all factual assertions made in the agreement.
Wren, who was sentenced to a suspended one-year jail sentence, and is on probation, could face jail time if the factual claims made in the agreement are not true.
Notably, The only other person mentioned by name in the agreement between the acting AG and former Representative Wren is current Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn.
“Wren, and others affiliated with pharm co-op, had various meetings with members of the Alabama Legislature in which Wren sought legislative-support for the Co-op Exclusive Language,” the agreement says.
“Among the meetings Wren participated in while attempting to obtain legislative support for the Co-op Exclusive Language were meetings attended by the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives.”
The plea deal goes on to assert that Hubbard “endorsed” the language, and directed its insertion:
“After meeting with Wren and others, and reviewing the Co-op Exclusive Language, the Speaker of the House endorsed the Co-op Exclusive Language and directed staff to add it to Medicaid’s section of the General Fund Budget. The Co-op Exclusive Language became a part of the House of Representatives substitute version of the General Fund Budget. The substitute version was voted on and approved by the House of Representatives on April 23, 2013.”
In addition, Speaker Hubbard had not informed Wren or other relevant legislators of his “financial relationship” with APCI:
“Subsequent to the meetings, in which Wren participated, wherein the Speaker of the House reviewed and endorsed the Co-op Exclusive Language, Wren was informed by a lobbyist, who had represented Pharm Co-op in those meetings, that the Speaker of the House had an ongoing financial relationship with Pharm Co-op. The Speaker of the House had not informed Wren, or others Wren interacted with in those meetings, of that ongoing financial relationship.”
Speaker Hubbard has repeatedly denied nearly all of this, saying Wren’s arrest and conviction, “has nothing to do with me.”
“I had no knowledge of that deal,” he told members of the press including the Alabama Political Reporter on Sine Die, “and I can tell you that nothing involving Representative Wren involves me.”
Video of Hubbard’s sweaty statement on Wren’s conviction can be seen here.
Hubbard has also said that although his media company, Auburn Network, has done work with APCI in other states, the company – which is based in Alabama – had never contacted him about work in the state or about inserting language into the budget.
He also disputes the assertion that he directed the 23 words be inserted into the budget, telling the Associated Press’ Phil Rawls:
“Saying I directed that to be done, that didn’t happen.”
In his interview with AP, Hubbard blamed the heat on his position – not his actions – saying:
“Ultimately it is political. You look at the position I have and it’s pretty easy to see why I’ve become the target.”
Despite the Rawls interview being the only one since adjournment, Hubbard said that since the session is over, he will have no qualms in speaking out against false claims. “I’m going on the offense,” he said.
With Hubbard and Wren’s statements directly contradicting one another, it is clear someone is lying, and with the former Representative now facing a year – at least – if his claims are false, he is becoming less of a wren and more of an albatross for the Speaker of the House.