By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Roy Moore Campaign claimed that newly unveiled statements from key witnesses “completely bust the story of Beverly Nelson and Gloria Allred and further reveal an unconscionable bias on the part of state and national press to hide the truth from Alabama voters who will undoubtedly see through the ‘fake news’ and elect Judge Moore for the man that they have always known him to be.”
The Moore campaign claims that a former waitress has said that the Olde Hickory House required employees to be 16 years old. Nelson claims she was 15 when she started. The campaign also claims that two former employees have produced statement where they claim that the dumpsters were on the side of the building. Ms. Nelson claimed that the dumpster were in the back.
According to the campaign, Olde Hickory House sat right off of the four-lane highway and had a wrap-around porch with lights all around it. Nelson claimed that the surroundings were “dark and isolated.” Rhonda Ledbetter, who worked at Olde Hickory House for almost 3 years, states that the earliest it closed was at 11 p.m. but she believes it was open until midnight. She is certain it did not close at 10:00 p.m. because Goodyear was next door, and employees came to eat when their shift ended at 10 p.m. Nelson claims her story occurred after the restaurant closed at 10 p.m.
The Moore campaign claims that it is unlikely that there was an entrance from the back of the parking lot, which Nelson claimed existed. Multiple sources have claimed that everyone parked on the sides of the building because there wasn’t much room behind the restaurant, according to Rhonda not enough room to turn around. Renee Schivera stated that a neighborhood backed up to the parking lot and it was adjacent to the backyards of people’s houses, so she did not see how there would have been a back entrance as it would have gone through someone’s yard.
Nelson claims that Moore came in almost every night and sat at the counter, but former employees state that customers at the counter were served by the bartender or short order cook – not served by the waitresses and had no reason to interact with the wait staff Additionally, two former waitresses and two former patrons state they never saw Judge Moore come into the restaurant.
The Moore campaign claims that these witnesses have shared their testimony with multiple news outlets. The outlets have failed to report.
The Alabama Political Reporter is not actively hiding or suppressing any evidence that would exonerate Judge Roy Moore. Neither are we suppressing any evidence that might prove Roy Moore’s guilt. We can not speak for all of the local and national media.
According to the Moore campaign report, Rhonda Ledbetter, a retired public school teacher, was a waitress at Olde Hickory House for almost three years from 1977-1979. She was a college student at Jacksonville State University at the time and worked varying shifts at different times of day, multiple days a week during the time of her employment. She said in a statement: “When I heard Beverly Nelson’s story, there were several details that were different from what I remember. I was nervous at coming forward because of all the attention this story has gotten, but as a moral and ethical person I had to speak up about what I know to be true. I was a waitress at Olde Hickory for almost three years from 1977-1979, and I never saw Roy Moore come in to the restaurant. Not one time. And I would have noticed because most of our customers weren’t wearing suits, especially not at night. Many customers worked at Goodyear next door and would stop in on their way to and from work, and I don’t remember anyone from the courthouse coming in at all. That just wasn’t our crowd.”
“A few things stuck out to me. First, Nelson said she was 15 years old when she started working there but you had to be 16,” Ledbetter said in her statement. “I don’t remember her from my time there, and I don’t remember any 15 year olds working there at all. Second, Nelson said the restaurant closed at 10 p.m. but I know the earliest it closed was 11, though I believe it was midnight. I’m certain of that because Goodyear employees came in to eat after their shift ended at 10:00 p.m., so there’s no way we would have closed at that time.”
“Third, the area wasn’t dark and isolated as she described,” Ledbetter claimed. “Rather, the building was right off the busy four-lane highway and people and cars were always around. The restaurant had a wrap-around porch, like the ones at Cracker Barrel restaurants, and there were lights all around the sides of the building. So it wasn’t dark and anyone in the parking lot was visible from the road.”
“Fourth, the dumpsters were to the side of the building, not around back and there sure wasn’t room to park in between the building and the dumpsters,” Ledbetter said. “People from the kitchen would take trash out of the side door and throw it right into the dumpsters. We were always told to park on the side of the building, because there just wasn’t much room behind it. I don’t remember there being an exit from the back of the parking lot, there would barely have been enough room to turn a car around.”
“I came forward because from what I’ve seen, the media is only interested in reporting one side of this story,” Ledbetter said. “In fact, Dixon Hayes from WRBC in Birmingham asked for former employees to contact him but never responded when I told him I never saw Roy Moore come into Olde Hickory House during the three years I worked for. Two other news outlets in the state asked to interview me and I agreed, but neither one has aired my interview and I have to wonder why they don’t think the people of Alabama deserve to hear anything that counteracts the accusations against Judge Moore. It’s not for me to say whether or not something happened, I can only tell the truth about factual details that I know for sure. I think all Alabamians deserve to have all of the facts so they can decide for themselves what the truth is. Despite what the national media and people in DC might say, Alabama voters are intelligent and have common sense. We don’t need anyone to tell us how to vote or to explain to us what really happened. We will make that decision and I just wanted to do my part in sharing the truth on some of these important facts. I, like all Alabama voters, want any and all information that can shed light on the truth.”
Johnny Belyeu, Sr. is a former police officer with over two decades of experience with the Etowah County Sheriff’s Department and the Gadsden Police Department. He said in a statement, “I was an officer with the Etowah County Sheriff’s Department in the 1970s which means I worked in the courthouse and knew who Roy Moore was since he was the Deputy District Attorney at the time. I was a regular customer at Olde Hickory House, and I never once saw Judge Moore come in there. If he had I would have immediately recognized him. I also never met Beverly Nelson during any of the many times I frequented the restaurant, and I can’t say that she even worked there.”
Renee Schivera of Huntsville stated, “I was a waitress at the Olde Hickory House during the summer of 1977, before my senior year of high school. When I heard Beverly Nelson’s story the first thing that stuck out to me was that I don’t remember Roy Moore ever coming into the restaurant. I also don’t remember her working there. The other thing that struck me as odd is that from my best recollection, the dumpsters were to the side of the building. I just know they were visible from the road, and not back behind the building. But the main thing is that if someone came in almost every night we knew who there were, and I never saw Roy Moore there. As a Christian woman, I wouldn’t lie for anyone and I am only sharing what I know because it’s the truth.”
“The days of unbiased reporting are over,” Moore Campaign strategist Brett Doster said. “The liberal media will dodge any source and refuse to air any interview that doesn’t square with their effort to land a liberal Democrat in the senate seat. The Moore Campaign is committed to presenting factual truth to the people of Alabama and looks forward to victory on December 12.”
Beverly Nelson claims that she was a waitress at Olde Hickory House and that Roy Moore was a regular there. She has produced her high school year book with Moore’s signature. The Moore campaign claims that Moore’s signature was copied direct from a filing in Nelson’s divorce complete with a little D.A. after Roy Moore’s name. The Moore campaign says that the D.A. stands for Delbra Adams who was Moore’s aide when he was a judge who initialed the documents when they were filed. The signature in the year book includes the D.A. even though Moore was a deputy District Attorney, not the actual district attorney. Ms. Adams has come forwards and corroborated Moore’s story about the D.A. being in the court documents. Nelson’s attorney, Gloria Allred has refused to hand over the yearbook to be analyzed by a forgery expert.
Nelson claims that Moore offered to give her a ride and then drove behind the restaurant by the dumpster and then tried to force her to give him oral sex. When she refused Nelson claims that Moore tossed her out of the vehicle and drove away. Her boyfriend then picked her up and drove her home. Nelson claims that she did not tell her boyfriend about the attack by the then 30 year old Moore.
Nelson’s stepson says that she is lying and that he supports Moore.
The first accusations were first made by the Washington Post which has endorsed Doug Jones for U.S. Senate. Gloria Alredd then had a press conference to unveil Ms. Nelson and her alleged relationship with Moore.
Moore faces Jones in a special election on December 12.
House passes General Fund Budget
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama House of Representatives passed the state General Fund Budget on Tuesday.
The General Fund Budget for the 2019 fiscal year is Senate Bill 178. It is sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose. State Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, carried the budget on the House floor. Clouse chairs the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee.
Clouse said, “Last year we monetized the BP settlement money and held over $97 million to this year.”
Clouse said that the state is still trying to come up with a solution to the federal lawsuit over the state prisons. The Governor’s Office has made some progress after she took over from Gov. Robert Bentley. The supplemental we just passed added $30 million to prisons.
The budget adds $50 million to the Department of Corrections.
Clouse said that the budget increased the money for prisons by $55,680,000 and includes $4.8 million to buy the privately-owned prison facility in Perry County.
Clouse said that the budget raises funding for the judicial system and raises the appropriation for the Forensic Sciences to $11.7 million.
The House passed a committee substitute so the Senate is either going to have to concur with the changes made by the House or a conference committee will have to be appointed. Clouse told reporters that he hoped that it did not have to go to conference.
Clouse said that the budget had added $860,000 to hire more Juvenile Probation Officers. After talking to officials with the court system that was cut in half in the amendment. The amendment also includes some wording the arbiters in the court lawsuit think we need.
The state General Fund Budget, SB178, passed 98-1.
Both budgets have now passed the Alabama House of Representatives.
The 2019 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, 2018.
In addition to the SGF, the House also passed a supplemental appropriation for the current 2018 budget year. SB175 is also sponsored by Pittman and was carried by Clouse on the floor of the House.
SB175 includes $30 million in additional 2018 money for the Department of Corrections. The Departmental Emergency Fund, the Examiners of Public Accounts, the Insurance Department and Forensic Sciences received additional money.
Clouse said, “We knew dealing with the federal lawsuit was going to be expensive. We are adding $80 million to the Department of Corrections.”
State Representative Johnny Mack Morrow, R-Red Bay, said that state Department of Forensics was cut from $14 million to $9 million. “Why are we adding money for DA and courts if we don’t have money for forensics to provide evidence? if there is any agency in law enforcement or the court system that should be funded it is Forensics.”
The supplemental 2018 appropriation passed 80 to 1.
The House also passed SB203. It was sponsored by Pittman and was carried in the House by State Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton. It raises securities and registration fees for agents and investment advisors. It increases the filing fees for certain management investment companies. Johnson said that those fees had not been adjusted since 2009.
The House also passed SB176, which is an annual appropriation for the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The bill requires that the agency have an operations plan, audited financial statement, and quarterly and end of year reports. SB176 is sponsored by Pittman and was carried on the House floor by State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chatham.
The House passed Senate Bill 185 which gives state employees a cost of living increase in the 2019 budget beginning on October 1. It was sponsored by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville and was being carried on the House floor by state Rep. Dimitri Polizos, R-Montgomery.
Polizos said that this was the first raise for non-education state employees in nine years. It is a 3 percent raise.
SB185 passed 101-0.
Senate Bill 215 gives retired state employees a one time bonus check. SB215 is sponsored by Senator Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Guntersville.
Rich said that retired employees will get a bonus $1 for every month that they worked for the state. For employees who retired with 25 years of service that will be a $300 one time bonus. A 20-year retiree would get $240 and a 35-year employee would get $420.
SB215 passed the House 87-0.
The House passed Senate Bill 231, which is the appropriation bill increase amount to the Emergency Forest Fire and Insect and Disease Fund. SB231 is sponsored by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette.
State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chathom, said, “Thank you for bringing this bill my district is full of trees and you never know when a forest fire will hit.
SB231 passed 87-2.
The state of Alabama is unique among the states in that most of the money is earmarked for specific purposes allowing the Legislature little year-to-year flexibility in moving funds around.
The SGF includes appropriations for the Alabama Medicaid Agency, the courts, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Alabama Department of Corrections, mental health, and most state agencies that are no education related. The Alabama Department of Transportation gets their funding mostly from state fuel taxes.
The Legislature also gives ALEA a portion of the gas taxes. K-12 education, the two year college system, and all the universities get their state support from the education trust fund (ETF) budget. There are also billions of dollars in revenue that are earmarked for a variety of purposes that does not show up in the SGF or ETF budgets.
Examples of that include the Public Service Commission, which collects utility taxes from the industries that it regulates. The PSC is supported entirely by its own revenue streams and contributes $13 million to the SGF. The Secretary of State’s Office is entirely funded by its corporate filing and other fees and gets no SGF appropriation.
Clouse warned reporters that part of the reason this budget had so much money was due to the BP oil spill settlement that provided money for the 2018 budget and $97 million for the 2019 budget. Clouse said they elected to make a $13 million repayment to the Alabama Trust fund that was not due until 2020 but that is all that was held over for 2020.
Clouse predicted that the Legislature will have to make some hard decisions about revenue in next year’s session.
Day Care bill delayed for second time on Senate floor, may be back Thursday
By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter
The day care bill, which would license certain day care centers in Alabama, was once again delayed on the state Senate floor after one lawmaker requested more information.
Its brief appearance Tuesday ended with state Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, saying a compromise had not yet been worked out with the bill’s detractors.
Alabama’s Senate has been hesitant to act on the legislation because of complaints of state Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, who has been an opponent of the bill since its introduction last year. The bill’s delay on Tuesday marks the second time its been taken off the Senate’s agenda.
The bill has had a rocky time in this year’s session, but the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said she is still confident about its passage out of the Legislature.
Warren, D-Tuskegee, filed the bill this session with the support of influential lawmakers including Gov. Kay Ivey, who told reporters last year that she though all day cares should be licensed.
Mainly sparked by the death of 5-year-old boy in the care of a unlicensed day care worker, the bill had great momentum coming into this year’ session.
Despite the growing support from lawmakers, Religious groups had concerns that the bill would increase state-sponsored reach into religious day cares in churches and non-profit groups.
Spearheading the dissenters was Alabama Citizens Action Program, a conservative religious-based PAC.
Warren, proponents, and ALCAP announced a compromise to the bill while it was still in the Alabama House.
Announced by ALCAP originally, the new bill was a weaker version in that it did not require that all day cares in the state be regulated. Instead, religious-based day cares would only need to be registered if they received federal funds. At a Senate committee meeting in February, Warren said a similar requirement was about to come from federal law in Congress.
The bill moved through the House in a overwhelming vote in favor of the proposal and passed unanimously out of a Senate committee a few weeks ago.
Warren, speaking to reporters after its passage from the House, said she was unsure if the bill would encounter resistance in the upper chamber.
It was the Senate that killed the daycare bill last year amid a cramped last day where senators took the bill off the floor. The bill may face similar complications this year, as lawmakers seem to be preparing to adjourn within a few weeks.
Fantasy sports bill fails on Senate floor
By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter
Would-be Fantasy Sports players in Alabama will have to wait to legally play in the state following a Senate vote on Tuesday.
The Alabama Senate decisively killed a bill to exempt fantasy sports from the state’s prohibition on gambling.
Not even entertaining a debate on the Senate floor, the proposal was killed during a vote for the Budget Isolation Resolution, which is usually a formality vote preluding a debate.
Fantasy sports are contests where participants select players from real teams to compete on fantasy teams using the real-world players’ stats.
Since 2016, the practice has been illegal in Alabama following a legal decision by the Attorney General’s Office that categorized it as gambling.
The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, predicted the bill’s failure during a committee meeting two weeks ago, where the bill passed unanimously.
- Sen. Paul Sanford speaks to reporters after a Senate Committee meeting on Feb. 28, 2018. (Samuel Mattison/APR)
Speaking to reporter’s after the committee meeting, Sanford said the decision to file the bill was mainly a philosophical belief that the practice shouldn’t be illegal.
Sanford, a fantasy sports player before its ban, said that fantasy sports are a way to bring people closer together and not a means to win money. The Huntsville senator is not seeking re-election.
The bill’s failure in the Senate follows its trajectory last year too. A similar version of the bill, also sponsored by Sanford, failed in the Senate during the final days of the 2017 Legislative Session.
Since Sanford is retiring, it is unclear if the bill will even come back next session, or if it will even have a Senate sponsor.
House OKs bill to clarify consulting contracts by state legislators
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill to try to clarify how legislators accept consulting contracts under Alabama’s 2010 ethics law. Some pundits have suggested that House Bill 387 is actually designed to weaken the existing ethics law.
Sponsor state Rep. Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa, argues that the legislation is merely a clarification and is intended to prevent legislators from inadvertently crossing the line into illegality.
Wingo said that his bill would require legislators to notify the Alabama Ethics Commission that they have entered into a consulting agreement in an area outside of their normal scope of work.
State Rep. Paul Beckman, R-Prattville, said, “I have never understood why members of this body were allowed to take contracts as consultants or counselors.”
Wingo said, “Never do I use the word counselor in my bill; it is consulting.”
Beckman asked, “Are we going to be getting into an area where every time we turn around we create a bureaucratic nightmare where we have to go get an opinion. These opinions whether it is orally or written don’t hold up in a court of law.” Beckman said, “We are serving the people here but we get this admonition that we can still be a consultant if we get an opinion.”
Wingo said, “This does not apply to professions where a member is currently licensed.”
Beckman said, “I would like to see more opinions coming out of the Ethics Commission. Right now we have the Ethics Commission competing with the Attorney General’s office over who has more authority.”
State Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said,”This happened to a friend of mine. He just got out of prison. He was a state senator and had a written letter from the Ethics Commission which his lawyer read at trial and the jury convicted him anyway.”
Rogers never named his friend, but reporters think he was talking about former state Sen. Edward Browning ‘E. B.’ McClain who spent over 22 years in the legislature until he was convicted on 47 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, bribery, and money laundry in 2009.
A federal jury found that McClain and the Rev. Samuel Pettagrue were guilty in a scheme where McClain would secure public funds for Pettagrue’s community programs and then receive a kickback once the funds were in hand. McClain was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison. McClain was not prosecuted under the Alabama ethics law as the state has a much weaker ethics statute then. The current ethics law was passed in 2010.
Rogers said, “If they offer me a consulting contract for a field like aerospace engineering that I know nothing about they are trying to pay me off. If you can already be a consultant for something you know about why would you seek a consulting contract for something you don’t know about.
Rogers this is how they can pay you off for your vote.”
State Rep. Artis “A.J.” McCampbell said, “I don’t like making changes to things like this because we get into things called unintended consequences.”
McCampbell was reading from the bill and Wingo said, “You are reading from the original version it has completely changed.” “We worked tirelessly on this bill with the Ethics Commission this is not a fly by night bill.”
“If a member of the legislature enters into a contract to do a consulting contract outside of their normal field of work this bill requires that they consult with the Ethics Commission first,” Wingo said. “It is up to the member to notify the Ethics Commission not to the company or person offering them the money.”
State Representative Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said, “Everybody but legislators are allowed to do contract work up to $30,000.”
Rep. Wingo said, “This is not intended to be a roadblock.”
State Representative Arnold Mooney, R-Indian Springs, said, “The whole purpose of this is not to prevent members from doing work in your field.” “What you are doing is offering to protect me.”
State Representative John Knight, D-Montgomery, asked Wingo what the Alabama Attorney General said about this legislation.
Wingo replied, “I have not contacted the Attorney General.”
Knight responded, “Something from the Ethics Commission does not carry a lot of protection from the Attorney General. We have seen that in the past. I think the Attorney General and the Ethics Commission should be in agreement in the working on this.”
Wingo answered, “Maybe this is a first step.”
Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, asked, “Do we have anybody doing work outside of their regular scope of work?”
Wingo answered, “Yes I think so.”
Wingo said, “If we had had this bill four or five years ago maybe we could have been spared the embarrassment that this body experienced with the former Speaker.”
Wingo was referring to former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard who was convicted of 12 counts of felony ethics violations in June 2016. Ironically, Hubbard is largely responsible for creating the ethics law that he was found guilty of violating 11 times in his relentless pursuit of outside contracts and personal wealth.
Unlike McClain, however, Hubbard has not yet served any of this sentence.
House Bill 387 passed 67-0 with 26 legislators abstaining.
The bill now moves to the Senate for its consideration.
(Original reporting by the Alabama Media Group’s Lisa Osborn in 2009 was consulted in this report.)