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Would HB317 help some state officials avoid indictment?

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From the start, the backers of HB317 — an ethics bill that offers a reporting exemption to full-time and part-time “economic developers” — have maintained that it wasn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card.

It appears they were right.

Instead, it’s an avoid-jail-altogether card.

Sources familiar with the ongoing, closed-door debates over HB317 have told APR that the legislation was specifically crafted as a means to aid several state officials and businessmen who are likely facing indictments in the coming days if the current law remains in place.

The sources could not, or would not, divulge specifics of those investigations, but there are at least three active grand juries, one of which deals specifically with a major economic development project and that has interviewed several people who are typically major players in the state’s economic development plans.

That grand jury, empaneled in Montgomery, is looking into a deal involving the Bellefonte Power Plant near Scottsboro, according to sources close to the investigation.

The Montgomery public corruption grand jury is back to work

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APR reporters in January witnessed numerous top officials in the state entering a grand jury room in the Montgomery County Courthouse. Sources at the time told APR that while the overall focus was broad, the grand jury was specifically interested in a rumored deal that would have dumped millions in taxpayer money into the plant, and working with the state’s two-year college system, would have developed a “workforce development” program operating in conjunction with Bellefonte.

Sources: Corruption Grand Jury focused on power plant deals

Sources also said the grand jury would be exploring campaign donations made Bellefonte owner and Tennessee billionaire Franklin Haney to several state officials.

Over the course of three days, APR reporters witnessed Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield, two-year chancellor Jimmy Baker and several advisers to former Gov. Robert Bentley entering the grand jury room.

In addition to the Montgomery grand jury, the Lee County grand jury that indicted former House Speaker Mike Hubbard is also still active. For months now, there have been rumors that state prosecutors were working to charge others in the Hubbard case, including possibly those who offered him the bribes he was convicted of accepting.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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