By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Today begins the fifth day in the felony criminal trial against Speaker Mike Hubbard, who is charged with 23 counts of public corruption.
The State, on Friday, released the names of twelve witnesses who will give testimony on a range of topics including Hubbard’s role in placing 23 words in the Medicaid portion of the 2014 State General Fund Budget that would have given his client, American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI), a monopoly over the multi-million dollar program. Scheduled to give testimony are Bill Eley and Ferrell Patrick. Eley is an in-house lobbyist for APCI, with a long history as a Montgomery lobbyist.
In his plea agreement to avoid jail time, former Rep. Greg Wren said, those who attended the meeting about the language were Hubbard, and “other legislators, legislative staff, members of the Speaker’s staff, and lobbyists affiliated with Pharm Co-op.” Eley is believed to be one of the “lobbyists” and Patrick is another.
As a contract lobbyist for APCI, Patrick hired the firm owned by Dax Swatek, Tim Howe and John Ross to aide in the lobbying effort. Howe and Ross testified on at the first day of trial.
Also set to testify about Hubbard’s relationship to APCI is veteran politico Bill O’Connor, who has worn many hats in his long career and include a stint as President of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA). O’Connor is believed to have suggested Hubbard be hired by APCI.
Former Ethics Commission Director James (Jim) L. Sumner is scheduled to testify. He served as director from 1997 until he retired in 2014.
There will be testimony given with regard to Hubbard asking for and receiving money in the form of investments in his business interest, Craftmaster Printers, from lobbyists or principals. Hubbard received $150,000 from Sterne Agee Group, Inc. Jon Sanderson, former Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer and Corporate Secretary at Sterne Agee Group, Inc., is on deck today, as is former State Senator Steve French, who works at the investment group.
Hubbard is charged with soliciting a thing of value from Dax Swatek. During opening statements, Special Prosecution Division Chief Matt Hart told the jury they would hear from a lobbyist who was asked to give Hubbard $150,000, but that he turned him down because he believed it to be illegal. Swatek is believed to be the lobbyist Hart was referring to in his opening.
Michael Humphrey, Executive Vice President, Business Development for Edgenuity, Inc., is listed as a witness on Day Five. Hubbard held a consulting contract with the education software and distance learning provider. Hubbard was paid $7,500 a month to represent the education group. The prosecution has presented a check written to Hubbard’s Auburn Network, which had written in the for line, “For Lobbying.”
Rounding out the days testimony on Edgenuity, Inc., will be Craig Pouncey, who has worked for over a decade in various positions with the State Department of Education.
Will Brooke, Executive Vice President and managing partner of the investment firm, Harbert Management Corporation, will give testimony about giving Hubbard $150,000 for his business interest, Craftmaster Printiers. Many of the damaging emails released soon after Hubbard’s indictment at the request of his attorneys were exchanges between Brooke and Hubbard. In one email Hubbard wrote, “It’s ironic that I was the ‘architect’ of putting a pro-business legislature in place yet businesses seem to want to avoid any personal association with me like the plague. Too much of a lightning rod. I suppose, as they say, no good deed goes unpunished.”
Brooke send back a cautionary warning:
“No Mike, that’s not it. I think that folks are afraid to mess up, on either their or your side of the equation.” Hubbard had been told that several companies were afraid to hire him because it might violate State ethics laws.
Also on call are BCA Chairman, Billy Canary, and Minda Campbell Riley, the daughter of former Gov. Bob Riley. Both are listed in the charge against Hubbard for providing a thing of value. Canary and Campbell are registered lobbyists. In her Linkedin profile, Campbell says she has been employed by Bob Riley and Associates from 2011 until present. She also lists employment by the Baker Donelson law firm during the same period. The profile states she left Baker Donelson in January of this year.
Yella Fella Jim Rane and Hoar Construction’s Rob Burton are scheduled for tomorrow’s proceeding. Rane, listed by Forbes as the riches man in Alabama, and Burton, a contraction titan, both gave Hubbard $150,000 for Craftmasters.
It is doubtful that everyone listed will testify today, but with all the big names and emails that will be entered into the record, it should prove to be an interesting day.