By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
Legal Services Alabama is in an uproar.
Last week, Artur Davis, the former Alabama gubernatorial candidate, resigned as LSA’s executive director and wrote a scathing op-ed about his decision on his way out. In it, and in a subsequent complaint to the national Legal Services office and an Alabama Bar Association complaint, Davis alleged he resigned after LSA’s board president, LaVeeda Battle, placed him on leave over trumped-up charges and a personal vendetta.
Battle, of course, denies this and contends that there was valid cause to place Davis on leave and that she had the backing of her board on the decision.
The spat has created a rift in the LSA office, with a majority of the employees coming down on Davis’ side. Three employees, who wished to remain anonymous, said they believed the situation stemmed from Davis being brought in to run LSA and making changes that didn’t sit well with longtime employees.
“These people had their routines and he upset that to a degree,” said one employee. “I didn’t agree with every decision (Davis) made, but I had a pretty good handle on what happened in the office, and I never saw anything improper on his part.”
According to a portion of the bar complaint Davis filed, Battle listed three reasons for placing Davis on suspension: he damaged LSA with improper hiring practices, created a hostile working environment and failed to follow LSA guidelines and rules when implementing initiatives.
In his complaint, Davis notes that staff salaries are well under budget, that all initiatives implemented by him were approved beforehand by the board and that the majority of employees would agree that the working environment is fine.
Battle wouldn’t comment on the bar complaint because she said she hasn’t seen it yet. However, she said she had ample cause to place Davis on leave.
“It’s a shame that Mr. Davis chose to resign and is now speaking so poorly of the organization that does so much good for the people of this state,” Battle said.
LSA provides legal services and guidance to impoverished people, aiding in situations such as foreclosures and land disputes. Battle said her office, which aided Louisiana residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, is currently preparing guidance for the City of Houston in order to help that city’s legal services deal with insurance companies and other problems.
But while no one disputes LSA’s good deeds, some do question the money spent to fight this battle with Davis. They said that an investigator and a new security officer have been hired, and earlier this week they discovered that a public relations consultant was involved.
The employees said they learned of the consultant when the new interim executive director sent out an email to all staff purportedly written by Battle, however, the email mistakenly left political consultant David Mowery’s signature and photo at the bottom.
“It just seems like it’s been blown way out of proportion and it’s not worth this,” one employee said. “We have a hard enough time serving our people. This isn’t helping our purpose.”
It doesn’t appear as if either side is prepared to back down. Battle and LSA are moving forward with an investigation of the allegations against Davis, and Davis is pushing both the bar complaint – which alleges Battle has been purposefully dishonest – and his complaint to the national Legal Services Corporation.