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Did SBI Director Blow Whistle on State Senator Investigation?

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) Director Gene Wiggins has testified before the Montgomery Special Grand Jury on at least two occasions, most recently on October 19.

Shortly after Governor Robert Bentley placed ALEA Chief Spencer Collier on “medical leave,” an investigation into State Senator Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City) was spiked, just as it was on the verge of going before a grand jury.

Special Agent Jack Wilson, who was conducting the investigation into Williams, was ordered by Wiggins to close the case file and turn it over to the SBI.

In December 2015, The Alabama Political Reporter (APR) found Williams’ consulting business had grown from zero clients in 2010 to 43 by 2014, according to his ethics filing.

In January, APR reported that, according to a high-ranking government official, Williams was under investigation by law enforcement for possible ethics violations and other related activities. An inquiry into Williams’ consulting activities was launched by ALEA at the directions of Collier.

Williams extensive client list was discovered by APR during its probe into the State’s $47 million no-bid contracts for the accounting software known as STARRS.

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Just days before Bentley announced Collier’s firing, sources close to Bentley’s office revealed to APR that Williams had contacted the Governor, asking him to intervene in the ALEA probe. Williams’ plea to Bentley was also reported around the ALEA office as well.

The Williams case is now believed to be in the hands of the Attorney General’s Special Prosecution Division Chief, Matt Hart. Hart currently has Special Grand Juries impaneled in Montgomery and Jefferson Counties.

Williams denies any wrongdoing, and like convicted felon former House Speaker Mike Hubbard has attacked APR.

Williams said in a written statement issued in January, “Britt has attacked my law firm and its clients and insinuated I have used my position as a senator for private gain.”

Like Hubbard, he has also tried to use his power as a State Senator to have APR’s press credentials invalidated. He was one of three Republican Senators in 2015 to vote on a Senate Rule that would have barred APR from having access to the State House floor.

However, the measure was defeated when 19 Senators banded together against their “Politburo-like” tactics.

Wiggins’ testimony is secured from public view under the State’s Grand Jury Secrecy Act. However, Hart is known to fish broad and deep when questionable actions come to his attention.

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Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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