By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
After taking the oath of office to become the 54th Governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey said, “The Ivey administration will be open, transparent, and honest.”
Gov. Ivey’s top Legal Advisor, Bryan Taylor, listed his total personal indebtedness for 2015, between $600,000 and $850,000. His salary was around $145,000, with at least $55,000 paid by his wife’s company. His ethics filings do not reflect the $55,000. And the administration appointed Taylor under a classification that allows him to return to his merit position after leaving Ivey’s service.
In announcing her administration’s first hires Steve Pelham and Eileen Jones, she said, “Government transparency and efficiency start with a trustworthy team.”
Gov. Ivey appointed Taylor as Legal Advisor shortly after taking office. Taylor, formerly an advisor to Gov. Bob Riley, and a one-term State Senator, most recently served as Chief Legal Counsel to the Department of Finance.
According to Taylor’s official personnel file, he was hired by Acting Finance Director Bill Newton and began his return to State government employment as an Attorney IV. The Attorney IV classification, according to code, is “a permanent full-time position used by various agencies. Positions are located in Montgomery. This is governmental legal work of the highest degree of professional and administrative responsibility.” Taylor became a “merit employee” after completing his probationary period in the Robert Bentley administration.
An Attorney IV position offers a salary range between $92,992.80 and $141,784.80. Taylor’s personnel record shows a salary of $3,874.70 per pay period typed in the box listing “salary.” However, under that is a handwritten annotation that reads “$5,623.70 see letter.”
A letter from Department of Finance Office of Personnel to Ms. Darby Forrester, Manager Classification, and Pay Division State Personnel Department states, “The Finance Director has given the Legal Division approval to hire an Attorney IV. Bryan Taylor has been selected and has agreed to accept the position if hired above the minimum salary level at step 16 of pay grade 88. His work experience and expertise in this field will be beneficial to the Finance Department and warrants an annual salary of $134,968.80.”
The letter from Elizabeth Allen Personnel Director for the Department of Finance also says, “Attached are letters from his current employers documenting his income.”
There are two letters from Taylor’s former employers. One is from the law firm Bachus, Brom, Taylor, the other from Azimuth Grant Strategies.
“Bachus” in the company’s moniker refers to former US Congressman Spencer Bachus, who joined Brom, Taylor after stepping down from his seat in the US House of Representatives.
Taylor’s wife, Jessica Fair Taylor owns Azimuth Grant Strategies.
The letter from Bachus, Brom, Taylor states Taylor’s salary for the tax year 2015 as $87,000. A separate letter from his wife reports that Taylor earned $55,000 from her company in 2015. Taylor’s file contains a spreadsheet provided by his wife’s company lists a check Taylor received in 2015. In a span of 76 check numbers, Bryan Taylor received 27 (37 percent) ranging from $500 to $5000, totaling $55,400. These combined checks equal $142,643.68 as income for 2015.
The letter from Taylor’s wife to Personnel reads in part, “This letter is to certify that Azimuth Grant Strategies in 2015 has paid $55,400 to Bryan Taylor as an independent contractor (outside general counsel) for legal compliance and consulting services. This is the amount that will be reported for him on a Form 1099 for the 2015 tax year.” Proof that Taylor was paid $55,000 in 2015 from his wife’s company is in the below spreadsheet listing check numbers and amounts.
Taylor’s wife Jessica, also an attorney who served in the Riley administration, registered a grant writing company with the Secretary of State’s Office in September of 2010, the same year her husband won election to the State Senate.
The letter from Mrs. Taylor to personnel also states, “We will be happy to supply you with a copy of this 1099 as soon as our tax documents for 2015 are generated.” Taylor’s file doesn’t contain a 1099 form from Mrs. Taylor’s company. The personnel department said it appears no one ever asked for the tax records to be supplied.
In Taylor’s State file, he verifies an income of $142,643.68, which is used to justify the Attorney IV salary at the level as indicated, in the handwritten addition in his personnel records.
On Taylor’s 2015 Statement of Economic Interests, which is an Ethics Code requirement, he lists personal debt between $600,000-$850,000, which includes owning 4 Mortgage Firms, if at least $250,000, he lists owing 5 Individuals or Other Businesses $150,000-$250,000, and 2 Student Loans ranging from $150,000-$250,000. He also lists ten credit cards with an indebtedness of between $50,000 and $100,000.
However Taylor did not list the $55,000 from his wife’s company Azimuth Grant Strategies on his SOEI form. But does list his pay from Bachus, Brom, Taylor.
Taylor, who most recently served as merit employee in Department of Finance, enjoying all the rights and privileges that come with that status, left that job to join the Ivey Administration. However, an arrangement with the Ivey Administration allows Taylor to return to his merit status once he leaves the Governor’s service, according to the Office of State Personnel. Taylor’s appointment letter from Gov. Ivey says he serves as “General Counsel,” not Chief Legal Counsel which would statutorily require he resign his merit position.
Gov. Ivey did not release a formal statement regarding Taylor’s appointment, but her spokesperson, Eileen Jones, told the media that the Governor appointed Taylor because he was, an “excellent lawyer, excellent.”