By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—In April 2013, the Alabama Political Reporter, exposed the lucrative consulting contract Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn held with the Southeast Alabama Gas District (SEAGD).
Recently, Mayor Mike Schmitz of Dothan and Mayor Billy Blackwell of Ozark both provided testimony to the Lee County Grand Jury regarding their respective consecutive roles as chairmen of the Southeast Alabama Gas District.
Hubbard signed a $12,000 a month consulting contract with the quasi-private natural gas conglomerate January of 2012. He ended the contract sometime around September, 2013.
In September 2013, Hubbard’s communications Direct Rachel 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.”
What opportunities did Hubbard offer SEAGD for the approximate $96,000 it paid him for eight months work?
Surely, there are records of Hubbard’s work product, meetings held and expenses paid relating to his activities on the company’s behalf?
Over the last two years, the Alabama Political Reporter has made numerous calls to SEAGD, as well as calls to Ozark Major Blackwell. Unfortunately, we never received a response.
SEAGD is headed by Hubbard’s wife’s first cousin John Gregory (Greg) Henderson who serves as the CEO.
According to written statements by SEAGD the “Board Retain[ed] 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, “…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.”
In what ways did Hubbard help SEAGD “partner with State and local leaders?”
The only publicly known activity that Hubbard took on the company’s behalf was a trip Hubbard and his wife Susan took to the Paris Air Show. Hubbard, described the elaborate junket as an economic development opportunity.
Hubbard did ask the Ethics Commission to review the SEAGD contract about which they warned, “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.”
The question still remains: Did Hubbard use the mantle of his office to assist SEAGD?
It is not certain, but the appearance of SEAGD board members at the Special Grand Jury in Lee County certainly raises questions about Hubbard’s so-called consulting agreement.
By Bill Britt