By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—A joint legislative committee will meet tomorrow at 11 AM to began an investigation into the events surrounding an anonymous ethics complaint against Dr. Craig Pouncey.
In early August, The Alabama Political Reporter was the first to reveal an anonymous complaint about Pouncey, who, at the time, was a contender for the position of State’s Superintendent of Education.
The unknown author accused Pouncey of using State resources and personnel to write his doctoral dissertation. Even though the claims were later debunked, it is widely believed that it cost Pouncey the appointment, handing it to Massachusetts lawyer, Michael Sentance.
Senators Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) and Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery) sought and passed a joint resolution to create a committee to investigate the unsigned complaint.
“I helped write the ethics laws in such a way as to avoid these types of dirty tricks,” said Dial. “The ethics commission isn’t to acknowledge anonymous accusation much less launch an investigation.”
However, a letter from the Ethics Commission’s chief counsel, Hugh Evans, III, acknowledging receipt of the complaint, was immediately circulated casting doubt on Pouncey’s fitness for office. “We need to know what exactly happened and who was behind this letter,” said Dial.
The unsigned document also contained private emails written on State computers in 2009. Dial’s committee wants to uncover who accessed the State’s email system, which could prove to be a crime. The letter was sent to the Ethics Commission by Juliana T. Dean, General Counsel for ASDE at the urging of Board member Mary Scott Hunter, according to sources inside ASDE and others close to the situation.
Dial questions if the “intervention of both the Ethics Commission and the State Department of Education Board member(s) may have biased the selection process.” He also sent a letter to Attorney General Luther Strange asking for a full investigation into these allegations.
The joint resolution creating the committee said, in part, “baseless and groundless complaints serve primarily to destroy the credibility of innocent persons if the existence of a complaint becomes known to the public before it has been properly investigated.” It continues, citing Section 22 36-25-4.1 of the Code of Alabama 1975 which provides in pertinent part, “no complaints shall be made available to the public or available on the Internet until the disposition of the matter. In no event may any claim be made public or available on the Internet if the complaint is dismissed or found not to have probable cause.”
The joint committee members are Senators Dial, Ross and Greg Albritton (R-Bay Minette), and Representatives Steve Hurst (R-Munford), Isaac Whorton (R-Valley) and Merika Coleman (D-Birmingham).
Dial plans to have the investigation completed before the 2018 General Elections.