By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Republican State Senator Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City) issued a scathing press release blaming this publication for his being under investigation by State law enforcement, saying “Britt has attacked my law firm and its clients and insinuated I have used my position as a senator for private gain.”
His press release also stated “A full inquiry by the Senator at all levels of government and law enforcement, has revealed no evidence of any investigation, whatsoever.”
In an answer to this publication’s request for information about an investigation into Williams Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), spokesperson Anna Morris said, “Consistent with Agency policy, ALEA’s State Bureau of Investigation does not discuss possible criminal investigations or special inquiries.” She also noted that she was unaware if Williams had made an inquiry or not. “I am not aware if he has or has not contacted our office.”
Earlier this month, we reported, according to a high-ranking government official, that Williams was under investigation by law enforcement for possible ethics violations and other related activities.
On Williams’ latest ethics Statement of Economic Interests, he lists 43 professional or consulting clients. When elected in 2010, he listed no such clients.
In his press statement, prepared with guidance from Brent Buchanan, a former lobbyist and current consultant for the Senate Republican Caucus, Williams claimed, “I took the unusual step of contacting the Alabama Ethics Commission on Friday and personally requested they conduct a full review of my law practice. At my own insistence they have now received all five years of my client lists and will review them under seal.”
Williams stated that his client list is “under seal.” A search of State Ethics codes reveals no provision for a client list to be placed under seal. Williams voluntarily made these documents public.
After publishing the first article mentioning Williams’ 43 clients, Buchanan said Williams would release his client list to this publication, only to later withdraw the offer citing attorney/client privilege. With Williams’ move to send his client’s names to the Commission, he has waved his attorney/client privilege argument, according to our attorney.
The Alabama Political Reporter has sent an “Open Records Request” to the Commission to produce Williams’ client list.
If Williams’ ethics filings are accurate, he began his service as a Senator with no consulting or professional clients, and as of his 2014 filings he listed 43.
Williams, who sits on the Senate Banking Committee lists three Loan and/or Finance Companies who pay him between $1,000 – $10,000, and seven Banks that pay between $10,000 – $25,000.
His other spokesperson, John Rogers, who also advises the Senate Republican Caucus said, “It is not unusual for a lawyer, such as Williams, to have such clients.”
State ethics law absolutely forbids a lawmaker from receiving a thing of value from a lobbyist or a principal.
This publication has not accused Williams of any wrong doing. The investigation into his activities, as we understand it, is part of a probe being conducted by State law enforcement.