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Strategy to Combine Archives, Historical Commission Subject of Controversy

Bill Britt

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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.

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.

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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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Health

Ivey awards more than $17 million in federal coronavirus aid to local agencies

Eddie Burkhalter

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More than $17 million in coronavirus relief aid has been awarded to 20 state community action agencies, Gov. Kay Ivey’s office announced Friday. 

“COVID-19 has disrupted lives in many ways and in varying degrees,” Gov. Ivey said in a statement. “It is my hope that the services provided by these funds will help people as they work toward a quick and complete economic recovery.”

The Community Service Block grants made available by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be used by the various local agencies to provide aid to those impacted by the pandemic, including seniors,  the disabled and low-income families, according to a press release from Ivey’s office. 

“Gov. Ivey is determined to help Alabama and Alabamians emerge from this pandemic as strong if not stronger than ever,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said. “ADECA stands ready to be a part of that process with the funds made available through our programs.”

Agencies, amounts and coverage areas include:

  • Community Action Agency of Northwest Alabama Inc. – $668,160 (Colbert, Franklin and Lauderdale counties)
  • Community Action Partnership Huntsville/Madison and Limestone Counties – $1.05 million (Limestone and Madison counties)
  • Community Action Agency of Northeast Alabama Inc. – $1.35 million (Blount, Cherokee, DeKalb, Jackson, Marshall, and St. Clair counties)
  • Community Action Partnership of North Alabama – $775,602 (Cullman, Lawrence and Morgan counties)
  • Marion-Winston Counties Community Action Committee Inc. – $226,538 (Marion and Winston counties)
  • Walker County Community Action Agency Inc. – $273,782 (Walker County)
  • Community Action Agency of Talladega, Clay, Randolph, Calhoun and Cleburne counties – $1.02 million (Calhoun, Clay, Cleburne, Randolph, and Talladega counties)
  • Community Action of Etowah County Inc. – $379,592 (Etowah County)
  • Pickens County Community Action Committee and Community Development Corp. Inc. – $117,329 (Pickens County)
  • Community Service Programs of West Alabama Inc. – $1.65 million (Bibb, Choctaw, Dallas, Fayette, Greene, Lamar, Perry, Sumter and Tuscaloosa counties)
  • Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity – $2.19 million (Jefferson County)
  • Community Action Committee Inc. of Chambers, Tallapoosa, Coosa – $351,259 (Chambers, Coosa and Tallapoosa counties)
  • Community Action Partnership of Middle Alabama Inc. – $793,918 (Autauga, Chilton, Elmore and Shelby counties)
  • Montgomery Community Action Committee and Community Development Corp. Inc. – $911,887 (Montgomery County)
  • Alabama Council on Human Relations Inc. – $550,919 (Lee County)
  • Macon-Russell Community Action Agency Inc. – $375,068 (Macon and Russell counties)
  • Organized Community Action Program Inc. – $806,165 (Bullock, Butler, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Lowndes and Pike counties)
  • Community Action Agency of South Alabama – $1.24 million (Baldwin, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia, Marengo, Monroe, and Wilcox counties)
  • Southeast Alabama Community Action Partnership Inc. – $827,944 (Barbour, Coffee, Geneva, Henry and Houston counties)
  • Mobile Community Action Inc. – $1.77 million (Mobile and Washington counties)
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Crime

“A horrific scene”: Seven found dead after Morgan County shooting

Brandon Moseley

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Seven people were found dead in a horrific scene at a home in rural Morgan County late Thursday night after gunshots were reported.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office Friday morning said its deputies responded to the scene Thursday night. At approximately 11:23 p.m. deputies responded to a gunshots call in the 500 block of Talacuh Rd in Valhermoso Springs. Police confirmed seven adult fatalities.

“The scene is secure and no immediate threat to the public in the area,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement, but no suspect in custody.”

There are media reports that the victims include four men and three women.

“Morgan County Sheriff and Madison County Sheriff Crime Scene Units are processing the scene,” the Sheriff’s Department said in the statement. “The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office is part of the FBI Violent Crimes Taskforce which is also assisting. Sheriff Puckett, Coroner Jeff Chunn and District Attorney Scott Anderson have been on scene throughout the night and morning.”

Upon arrival at the residence, deputies saw part of the home was on fire and later discovered seven bodies inside after the fire was extinguished. The deputies were able to put out the fire before the fire department arrived. A dog was also found dead in the home.

“It is a horrific scene and to be able to process it will take some time,” MCSO’s public information officer Mike Swafford told WAAY. “We don’t have a motive at this time. We don’t have a determined suspect at this time. Investigators are following leads to piece together exactly what happened and who was involved. We can say we don’t believe there is an active threat to anybody in the area.”

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The neighbors called 911 to report the gunshots

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National

Mobile removes Confederate monument overnight

Chip Brownlee

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The city of Mobile removed a Confederate monument from downtown overnight following days of protest in Mobile and nationwide over police brutality and systemic racism.

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said he ordered the statue removed from its prominent location in downtown Mobile overnight.

“Moving this statue will not change the past,” Stimpson said in a statement on Twitter. “It is about removing a potential distraction so we may focus clearly on the future of our city. That conversation, and the mission to create One Mobile, continues today.”

The 120-year-old statue of Admiral Raphael Semmes, a Confederate Navy admiral, is the second Confederate monument removed in Alabama since protests gripped the nation over the police killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“To be clear: This decision is not about Raphael Semmes, it is not about a monument and it is not an attempt to rewrite history,” Stimpson said.

Stimpson said the statue has been placed in a secure location.

Last week, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin ordered a Confederate monument in Linn Park removed. That statue had been at the center of a years-long legal battle between the city of Birmingham and the Alabama Legislature, and Attorney General Steve Marshall has since sued the city a second time seeking a $25,000 fine for removing the monument.

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It is likely that Mobile will also face a similar fine.

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Crime

More prison workers, inmates test positive for COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter

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Four more prison workers and three inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, the Alabama Department of Corrections announced Thursday. 

Workers at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, the Elmore Correctional Facility, the Kilby Correctional Facility and the Bibb Correctional Facility self-reported positive coronavirus test results, according to an ADOC press release. 

Fifty-one cases among prison staff remain active while 25 workers who tested positive have been cleared to return to work. 

One inmate at the Easterling Correctional Facility and another at Tutwiler prison were moved into isolated areas in the facilities’ infirmaries after testing positive for the virus, according to the release. There have been 17 confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff at Tutwiler and 2 infected inmates. 

In addition to those two new confirmed cases, an inmate at the St. Clair Correctional Facility who had pre-existing medical conditions was taken to a local hospital after exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, where he tested positive for the virus. 

Thirteen of 22 confirmed COVID-19 cases among inmates remain active, according to ADOC. 

ADOC has tested 191 of approximately 22,000 inmates as of Wednesday.

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