By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter
An internal Alabama State Department of Education report will now head to the Alabama State Bar Association following a Joint Legislative Committee meeting.
The committee, headed by State Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) and Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery), met Tuesday to review new materials in a report by ALSDE Attorney Michael Meyer regarding the state superintendent selection process last year.
Meyer’s report implicates ALSDE General Counsel Juliana Dean, Interim State Superintendent Phillip Cleveland, Board Member Mary Scott Hunter and two other staff attorneys in a scheme to undermine the candidacy of State Superintendent Candidate Dr. Craig Pouncey.
Pouncey was not considered for the position after an anonymous ethics complaint regarding his doctoral dissertation was sent to the ALSDE.
“We were given the impression that this was a perfect storm,” Dial said. “Then we get the Michael Meyer’s report which says: hey this might not have been a perfect storm.”
Dial further explained that he didn’t know if the report was accurate but said the State Bar should decide the report’s legitimacy.
In an earlier press release, Dial said he expected former Board President and Governor Robert Bentley to testify why he “abruptly” changed his vote on the state superintendent seat. Bentley changed his vote after the anonymous ethics complaint against Pouncey was sent to the Ethics Commission.
Bentley was not present today despite his eagerness to attend the meeting earlier according to Dial. He said Bentley decided to not attend the meeting on advice from his attorney. Dial said Bentley was concerned that testifying may interfere with his probation.
While Bentley was not present, there were several individuals that testified today including:
• ALSDE General Counsel Juliana Dean
• Attorney Dennis Baily representing his client ALSDE attorney James Ward
• ALSDE Staff Attorney Michael Meyer
• Alabama Board of Education Chief of Staff Dee Fowler
• Ethics Commission General Counsel Hugh Evans
• Board of Education Member Mary Scott Hunter
• ALSDE Chief Security Information Officer David Pope
• Director of the Ethics Commission Tom Albritton
Dean and Baily both said the Meyer report was not legitimate and Dean called the report “slanderous” and “unfair.” She said her involvement with the ethics complaint against Pouncey was just her doing her job as general counsel.
Dean also confirmed that she was asked by Hunter to ask Michael Sentance, the current state superintendent, to resubmit his application after Pouncey was implicated in the anonymous complaint.
Meyer defended himself against Dean’s accusations that he was just trying to further his professional career. He said that after he went to investigate the ALSDE, Dean tried to have him transferred.
Pope once again testified that the emails included in the anonymous ethics complaint against Pouncey had to come from a source within the Alabama State Department of Education. He said whoever attached the emails to the letter probably retrieved them in 2009.
Fowler said that he and Meyer worked on the report and received guidance from the Attorney General’s office on how to proceed.
Evans said he received direction from Albritton to contact Dean about the anonymous letter that the ALSDE had received. He said Dean delivered the letter to him a few minutes later in person. He said that is wasn’t normally how the Ethics Commission receives complaints.
Dial said the Meyer report will now go to the Alabama State Bar Association for their consideration. He said the Joint Legislative Committee is only equipped to send it to the State Bar with the request that they investigate all the claims made in the report.
The State Bar Association has the power to subpoena people and ask them to testify under oath while the Joint Legislative Committee cannot.
Pouncey attached Meyer’s report to a lawsuit he is currently pursuing against all the five individuals implicated in the report.