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Strategy to Combine Archives, Historical Commission Subject of Controversy

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—A clandestine strategy to combine the Alabama Historical Commission and the Alabama Department of Archives and History has developed over the last several months, according to two Goat Hill insiders.

This is said to be another “overreach” in the Republican Supermajority’s quest to consolidate and govern under the banner of “right-sizing government.”

According to those close to the project, the Historical Commission would be dissolved and its duties rolled into the Archives. Responsibility for the commission’s historical sites, archaeology, educational and historical learning programs would shift to the Department of Conservation and Lands.

However, the secret plan has reportedly not shown a significant savings, in dollars or manpower and may be abandoned for the moment.

“For instance, the Archives does not have a full-time personnel officer. There is a general administrative services person that does purchasing, personnel, budget and about four or five different things. If you combine the two agencies you wouldn’t eliminate a personnel officer because they do not have a full-time dedicated personnel officer. Everybody would be doing the same work, it would just switch around,” said our insider.

In fact, it is believed the consolidation would create a deeper bureaucracy, overextending the director to the point of needing a deputy director or others to manage the combined entities.

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It is rumored that Dr. Stephen McNair was tasked by Republican leadership to design the consolidation plan. McNair, until recently, was the Director of Historical Sites at the commission. It is unclear at this time why McNair was terminated from the position he has held for the last two years. Rumors suggest that McNair was relieved of his duties after it was discovered he was secretly developing the consolidation plan.

Recently, McNair had become the focal point of the controversial removal of the portraits of governors George and Lurleen Wallace from the Capitol Rotunda.

In a press release, State Auditor Jim Zeigler said, “ Dr. Stephen McNair had removed the portraits of Governors George and Lurleen Wallace from the Capitol rotunda in January. Now, McNair has been removed.”

Zeigler says he will renew his February request to return the portraits to their traditional place and also call for a public hearing on the matter.

McNair is also the son-in-law of former Democrat State Representative Charles Oliver Newton, who lost an election after switching parties in 2014. Newton’s brother is acting Finance Director for the Gov. Robert Bentley administration.

The Historical Commission focuses on historical sites and structures, while Archives works primarily with records and museum artifacts owned by the State.

The Director of the Historical Commission did not return phone calls made to his office a number for McNair was not readily available.

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Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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