By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Alabama taxpayers forked over $325,000 defending Gov. Robert Bentley, and Acting Finance Director Bill Newton, in a lawsuit brought by State Auditor Jim Zeigler and State Representative Johnny Mack Morrow (D-Red Bay).
The pair sued Bentley, Newton, Attorney General Luther Strange and Conservation Chief Gunter Guy over the controversial plan to build an extravagant Hotel and Conference Center at Gulf State Park, using BP settlement funds.
On Thursday, September 15, Judge Greg Griffin dismissed the lawsuit, but that doesn’t matter because the legal fees were approved by Joint Legislative Contract Review earlier in the month.
To be fair to the contract review panel, they only have the power to delay a request, not stop it altogether. Its oversight without authority results in handwringing, while rubber stamping every foolish notion of the Bentley administration.
Zeigler and Morrow lost the first round, but are appealing Judge Griffin’s decision. However, three law firms are big winners. Ball, Ball, Matthews & Novak, PA received $25,000 to represent Newton as “Acting” Director of Finance.
More State taxpayer dollars were spent on Ryals, Donaldson & Agricola, PC for $100,000 to defend Newton as “Finance” Director. Another $100,000 went to Wallace, Jordan, Ratliff & Brandt, LLC, to protect Newton as (wait) “Finance” Director.
Newton’s title is Acting Finance Director, not Finance Director, but evidently it cost $175,000 more to defend a Finance Director as opposed to a mere $25,000 for someone “Acting” as a Director.
The State ponied-up another $50,000 to Ball, Ball, Matthews & Novak, PA, to represent Bentley, as well as $50,000 to Maynard, Cooper & Gale.
As one reporter said, “If they understood Bentley is simply acting as Governor, the State could save tons of money.”