By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Friday, June 10, a Lee County Jury found Mike Hubbard guilty of twelve counts of felony ethics violations. Among these is Count number ten. There, the disgraced Speaker was found guilty of, “Receiving money from a lobbyist, subordinate of a lobbyist, or principal of Edgenuity, inc. and/or E2020 (a data provider specializing in online education software in Wetumpka) to Auburn Network.”
Specifically, the former Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives received sixteen $7500 checks from Edgenuity, with “lobbying services” actually written on the checks. The company even had language in the contract with Hubbard stating that he was to perform lobbying services. The former Speaker of the House was making $62,000 a year by the State for the part-time job as speakers and Edgenuity was paying him $90,000 a year (about twice the income of the typical Alabama family).
Edgenuity Executive Vice-President Michael Humphrey testified that he paid Mike Hubbard, “To open doors.”
According to original reporting by the Associated Press’s Kim Chandler, Humphrey testified that he believed that Hubbard, with his legislative and sports background, could get him meetings with legislative leaders that Humphrey said would take him a year to get on his own.
Humphrey testified, “My idea was to use Mike to ….. get me a meeting with this guy, let me go meet him.” Humphrey testified that Hubbard’s contract specified that he only worked on matters outside Alabama for the company.
A jury has now found former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) guilty of violating State Ethics Laws for his dealings with Edgenuity…..dealings which were so potentially shady that Hubbard never disclosed them to his “good friend” and mentor, former Governor Bob Riley (R) or to then Alabama Ethics Commissioner Jim Sumner.
It has been established in a court of law that Hubbard broke Alabama by cashing Edgenuity’s checks. Did Edgenuity break the law by writing those checks in the first place.”
The Alabama Political Reporter (APR) asked members of the State School Board: Since it has been proven that Edgenuity made unlawful or at least unethical payments to the Speaker is there some sanctions that the state school board should place on the company? Can their contracts be voided since they have been shown to be an unlawful or at least unethical actor in their dealings with the State of Alabama?
State School Board member Stephanie Bell (R) said in a statement, “The State Board of Education does not enter into contracts, vote on contracts, or have anything to do with selecting specific companies. In fact, I have requested copies of contracts which were never provided. I found out about Edgenuity through a confidential source. The state superintendent has not provided any information about Edgenuity or any other similar contract…..even when requested on multiple occasions. Certainly, the Edgenuity contracts should be voided. I hope the Attorney General’s Office will conduct a thorough review of all Alabama Department of Education contracts.”
State School Board Member Mary Scott Hunter (R) replied, “I inquired about the contracts in March of last year. I never received a response and should have followed up.” “I do not speak for the Board, but I imagine they each have some of the same questions I do about this vendor. Obviously, Mr. Hubbard’s conviction which names Edgenuity calls into question the company’s commitment to ethics and compliance.”
Hunter wrote, “As for your question about voiding contracts with Edgenuity, I think the first question is what contracts does the State Department of Education and/or the LEAs (Local Education Agencies or “Local Systems”) have with Edgenuity, if any, what are they for, etc. I’m Cc’ing Dr. Cleveland who is best positioned to respond to you about that.”
APR has also emailed interim state school Superintendent Dr. Philip Cleveland and has yet to receive any response.
Hunter forwarded APR a March 2, 2015 email she sent to then State School Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice when it became public that Speaker Hubbard had been providing lobbying services to the company. Hunter asked Bice, “Tommy, Please request Edgenuity provide to our Department attorney copies of their contract with Speaker Hubbard, a payment history to Speaker Hubbard, and any contracts they currently have or had in the past with Alabama LEAs. I would also like to review any contracts Edgenuity has with the State Department of Education. I would like to review this material while I am in Montgomery for the March Board Meeting.”
Hunter followed that with a March 3, 2015 email to Supt. Bice. “Tommy, Thank you. Please ask Edgenuity to provide the names of any other lobbyist’s they employ in Alabama.” Once all information is received, I would like for you to have it all evaluated by an attorney with expertise in our Alabama lobbying laws, state procurement integrity, and governmental ethics. This legal review and any recommendations should be provided to the entire Board.”
Hunter said that she never heard back from the State department on this requested review. Tommy Bice retired as State School Superintendent on March 31.
Frequent education policy critic Ann Eubank who heads the Alabama Legislative Watchdogs said that she has seen enough from the company. Eubank said in a statement, “Edgenuity should be sanctioned for their participation in the corruption of the Statehouse either by bringing charges of bribery, or cancellation of the contract they were awarded because of illegal activity. We want to know how much influence did Hubbard exert over the school officials and who approved this contract? Hubbard’s conviction doesn’t end this investigation, we need to continue to root out the corruption in every department in every level of state government. Pay to Play needs to stop in Montgomery.”
When asked if there would be additional prosecutions stemming from the Mike Hubbard corruption trial, both acting Attorney General Van Davis and prosecutor Matt Hart both said, “No comment.”
On Tuesday, June 14, APR’s Editor-In-Chief, Bill Britt reported that the Special Lee County investigative Grand Jury is still empaneled. Edgenuity’s irregular “lobbying services” contract with Hubbard could be one of the issues that prosecutors are still looking at.