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Amid Investigations, Lawsuits, Bentley Appoints New Finance Director

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—After a Federal audit of the State’s Finance Department, which has yet to be made public, Governor Robert Bentley announced, on Friday, that Clinton Carter, the State’s Deputy Finance Director, will step up to serve as the new State Finance Director.

After serving for nearly three years as the Acting Finance Director under Bentley, Bill Newton will not longer be heading Bentley’s Finance Department. Bentley gave no reason for the shake-up but said he was proud to have Clinton back to assume this role.

“I am honored to have Clinton return to my administration and serve as my finance director,” Bentley said. “Clinton did an outstanding job when he served during my first term. In 2012, Clinton was the architect of my initiative to achieve one billion in annual savings by the end of my first term through a combination of agency streamlining and realignment, strategic legislation and government right-sizing. Clinton is a strong asset, and I am looking forward to discussing his ideas.”

Clinton served as the Deputy Finance Director during Bentley’s first term.

“I am truly honored and humbled that I have the opportunity to once again serve the people of Alabama as part of the Bentley administration,” Carter said. “I welcome the opportunity to continue implementing the Governor’s vision to ensure the Finance Department is protecting the financial interests of the State.”

In late August, APR reported that Clinton would be returning to the Finance Department to advise on revenue and financial policy. Sources said then Carter was being groomed to replace Newton. After serving for the last few years as the University of North Alabama’s vice president for business and financial affairs, many said Carter is back to Montgomery to pick up after Newton. Under Newton’s watch, the Finance Department has come under heavy scrutiny.

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The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is reviewing the Federal audit conducted by the FBI, supposedly at Bentley’s request.

In June, ALEA announced the FBI’s audit as routine. But, others said the audit was the result of problems in the Finance Department after some contractors were given unauthorized access to ALEA and Criminal Justice information systems across the State’s flat IT network.

That FBI audit should be returned from ALEA to the FBI this month before it can be finalized and made public.

The FBI probe hasn’t been the Finance Department’s only concern over the past months, either. The department has also found itself embroiled in a lawsuit over a $47-million no-bid contract to fund the State of Alabama Accounting and Resource System, commonly known as STAARS.

In July, State Auditor Jim Zeigler announced he would be bringing a lawsuit over the failed accounting and payment system. The failed system, which was intended to handle financial transactions for government agencies, left millions in unpaid invoices strewn across the State.

In June, Newton said he took responsibility for the system’s failure.

Zeigler said the software doesn’t work as intended and the no-bid contract violates the State’s bid laws. He wanted it voided and the money returned to the State’s General Fund.

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Late last month, Bentley was dismissed as a defendant, but the lawsuit wasn’t dropped.

APR has done numerous investigations into STAARS’ failures. Newton was a primary handler of that contract and now says the software is up and functioning.

Newton will return to his former position as assistant finance director.

“Serving as finance director for Governor Bentley has been an honor,” Newton said. “His administration has had success in addressing the many challenges of State government. I am sure that he and his cabinet will continue to do good work for the remainder of this term.”

Carter’s appointment entered into force Saturday, Oct. 1.

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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