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Email acknowledges it’s time for Canary to go

As discussion continues to heat up over embattled Business Council of Alabama’s C.E.O. Billy Canary’s future desperation, deception and political wrangling are playing out in real-time. In hopes of saving his position, Canary is even misleading the committee about his relationship with Alabama’s senior U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, suggesting he has Shelby’s support to remain at BCA.

Earlier this week, the Alabama Political Reporter was given access to the content of an email that confirms executive committee members agree that Canary should be replaced. The only question remaining is when.

During an April 10 executive committee meeting, seven of the state’s largest corporations laid down an ultimatum: either Canary goes, or they do. This ultimatum was not a hastily drawn conclusion but the result of years of watching the organization’s reputation being damaged by Canary’s leadership.

From the exposure of Canary and other executives, illegal activities detailed at the trial of convicted felon and former Speaker Mike Hubbard to the heavy-handed tactic that has alienated lawmakers across the political spectrum, Canary has proven himself a liability.

In an email circulated among leaders of those seven companies, Alabama Power C.E.O. Mark Crosswhite confirms that current BCA Chair Perry Hand acknowledged that a change of leadership at BCA was necessary. However, the email provided by one of the select group’s members makes it clear that Hand and the seven have a difference of opinion on when Canary should step aside.

The seven businesses include Alabama Power, Regions Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield, AT&T, Drummond Coal and others who have made their dissatisfaction known to Hand and BCA’s executive committee, calling for Canary’s removal by June 1. However, Hand, for unspecified reasons, is pushing for Canary to stay until after November’s general election.

Those close to the situation say that Hand and Canary have agreed to use the power of BCA’s political arm, Progress PAC, to elect officials who will favor a sweeping gas tax to support infrastructure legislation in 2019. Delaying his departure gives Canary time to build a lobbying group while ensuring Hand’s company, Mobile-based engineering firm Volkert Inc., receives millions in state contracts.

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The email makes it plain that Hard realizes Canary must step aside but is refusing to cooperate on timing. In the email, Crosswhite joins Hand in expressing his displeasure over leaks to the media from members of the BCA executive committee. However, those committee members feel that the only way to force Canary out is for political leaders to understand the dire situation before BCA suffers irreversible harm.

As a prominent committee member said, “There are just a few ways this ends and only one is acceptable.” He concludes that to save BCA from further erosion, Canary must resign by June 1, as requested. “This is not a group of power-mad CEO’s throwing their weight around. These are companies that collectively have billions invested in our state. They want to do what’s right and what’s best for the state and its business interests.”

As he sees it, Hand can remain defiant and risk losing these companies dues, or worse, they will join another organization like Manufacture Alabama. “Either way BCA suffers,” he said. But he also worries, saying, “They could just give up which is what Canary is hoping will happen. Time is on Billy’s side.” But he cautions if these corporate giants concede the high ground, “Then where are the leaders we can look to for strength and guidance in times like these?”

It is widely believed that Sen. Shelby was first to see Canary as an obstacle to the state’s future when he began calling business leaders over a year ago expressing his desire to see a change of leadership at BCA. Sen. Shelby became increasingly dissatisfied with Canary’s direction after his part in Hubbard’s schemes were revealed.

Sen. Shelby and his staff made it abundantly clear that Canary was no longer welcome in his office and that BCA could expect nothing from him until Canary was gone from BCA.

For months, Canary begged and pleaded for an audience to smooth things over with Sen. Shelby, only to be rebuffed time and again.

However, lately Canary is telling anyone who will listen that he and Sen. Shelby have reconciled over BCA’s endorsement of Luther Strange’s senate campaign.

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APR‘s Washington sources confirm that Canary is still persona non grata  in Sen. Shelby’s office and that the Senator remains steadfast in his position.

BCA members met with Sen. Shelby recently, and his displeasure with Canary’s leadership was reconfirmed at the meeting despite Canary’s statements to the contrary.

“Just ask Canary the last time he spoke with Sen. Shelby,” said APR‘s D.C. insider.

Canary is a desperate man trying to keep his $600,000.00 salary. As one source put it, “For over a year, Canary has been looking for a place to land, but nobody wants him. Hubbard’s taint sticks to him. Why would anyone want to hire him?”

The recent email confirms Hand knows Canary should go, but it seems Hand want him to stay around a little longer. The question is: Will the big seven follow through on their ultimatum or fold their tents and walk away in defeat?


Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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