As 2018 closes, State Auditor Jim Zeigler says that his office, which he calls “the watchman for the people” suffered adversities in 2018, but overcame them with solid improvements.
The biggest setback was when the Auditor’s staff were kicked out of Alabama State House. In April, the Legislative Council notified Zeigler that his staff must move from the State House, where they had historically been. The auditors were told to get out but did not provide any place to move to.
Zeigler said that the eviction may have ended up being a blessing in disguise; because Zeigler located vacant space which the Alabama Ethics Commission needed to sublease. Zeigler negotiated an agreement with Ethics Director Tom Albritton and RSA Chief David Bronner, who owns the building. So now, Zeigler’s staff is housed with the ethics commission. Zeigler’s staff is now inside the ethics commission offices.
The 2018 audit results were so good that Zeigler said he might doubt them if they were conducted by any office beside his own.
Zeigler’s annual report for the fiscal year 2018 showed losses of .086 percent of total state assets of 238,557 items.
Zeigler’s staff conducted a property inventory of 45 agencies in Fiscal Year 2018. 35 agencies scored perfect audits, with all items of state property accounted for. 10 agencies had losses of 206 items valued at depreciated cost of $376,322.76.
The state Auditor is required to submit an annual report. The inventories state items valued at $500 or more and certain “sensitive” items, such as data devices. Typical items are state vehicles, computers and furniture. There are 176 state agencies subject to the state Auditor’s jurisdiction.
“The new safeguards we are putting into place are paying off with less loss of state property,” Zeigler said. “Accountability works and re-pays for its costs many times.”
Zeigler was highly critical of Governor Robert Bentley (R) and Bentley retaliated with dramatic cuts to the state Auditor’s office. Due to those last two Bentley Administration budgets, Zeigler was operating under Bentley cutbacks for most of 2018.
“We have remained current on state audits despite having our staff cut in half and our budget cut 28.5 percent by the final two Bentley administration budgets,” Zeigler said. “Thankfully, about half of the Bentley era slashes were restored to us under the first Ivey administration budget. The half-restored budget just went into effect October 1.”
Zeigler sponsored the 50th anniversary event remembering the death of Gov. Lurleen Wallace (D). Two weeks before the May 7th 50th anniversary of the death in office of Gov. Lurleen Wallace, Zeigler discovered that the Alabama Historical Commission was planning nothing in commemoration. He and Assistant Auditor Hope Scarborough went to work and organized a moving ceremony. It was held in the rotunda of the capitol building in front of the marble bust of Lurleen Wallace. Members of the Wallace family, friends, media and the public attended. Daughter Peggy Wallace Kennedy read a poem and the 1968 eulogy from Lurleen’s Bible. Lurleen Wallace was the first woman in Alabama history to serve as Governor. She was also the last governor of Alabama to die in office.
In July, the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed the remainder of Zeigler’s lawsuit against a $47 million unbid contract for STAARS accounting software. After Zeigler sued in 2017, the state canceled the remainder of the contract, about one-fourth of it. But Zeigler continued to seek restitution for state taxpayers from the vendors who sold STAARS to the Bentley administration without going through the required bid process. The court ruled Zeigler cannot seek restitution.
Zeigler also hosted a Second Amendment Rally. When leaders of two gun rights groups asked permission to hold a rally in April on the state capitol grounds, they were surprised to learn that they must have a statewide elected official as host. One call to Zeigler did the trick, and the rally was set. 150 citizens heard speakers talk about recent infringements on gun owners rights.
Zeigler told the group that the state capitol grounds belong to the people, and they should not need a politician to sign on as host, but that he was honored to do so. He also said that rules banning guns from the rally site were “ironic and unconstitutional.” Zeigler said that the no-guns policy is an infringement on the second amendment’s ending provision, “shall not be infringed.”
Zeigler was awarded a second term as auditor by Alabama voters. Zeigler defeated two Republican primary challengers without a runoff and won the November 6 general election with 60.5 percent of the vote receiving over 1,015,665 votes.
Zeigler is now term-limited and cannot seek the auditor’s job again. He has recently officially formed an exploratory campaign to possibly seek the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Doug Jones (D).
Governor meets with VIP
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey invited a special guest to meet with her in the Governor’s office on Friday.
Fourth grade student Cate McGriff met with Governor Ivey Friday afternoon. The discussion was described as wide-ranging and productive. The governor and McGriff covered everything from school to their love of dogs.
Gov. Ivey asked Miss. McGriff what her favorite subject in school is.
McGriff replied that it was math. She also told the governor that she wanted to attend Auburn University just like Gov. Ivey did.
Ivey asked Cate what she wanted to be when she grows up, after she attends Auburn.
McGriff said that she wanted to be an engineer.
Ivey advised her to keep working hard on her math.
Ivey shared that when she was a young intern for Governor Lurleen Wallace, the only other woman to serve as Governor in Alabama history, she had the opportunity to sit behind the governor’s desk. Ivey then asked Cate if she wanted to sit behind the desk, and they recreated the governor’s own photo behind Governor Wallace’s desk.
Cate and Governor Ivey both were wearing their red power suits and Auburn masks.
McGriff was joined by her parents and two siblings, Claire and Sam.
The McGriff family frequently tune in to the governor’s regular COVID press conferences. Cate also was given the chance to stand behind the lectern in the Old House Chamber.
Governors frequently meet with very important people including: Presidents, CEOs, congressmen, Senators, scientists, University presidents, state legislators, county commissioners, economic developers, and fourth graders.
CDC issues Halloween guidance
Today is Halloween. Many people are celebrating this year’s holiday at home as a nuclear family due to the coronavirus global pandemic. If you are going to still trick or treat this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued guidance on trick or treating.
“Traditional Halloween activities are fun, but some can increase the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 or influenza,” the CDC warned. “Plan alternate ways to participate in Halloween.”
To make trick-or-treating safer: avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters, give out treats outdoors, if possible, set up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take, wash your hands before handling treats, wear a mask or cloth face covering.
The CDC has also issued guidance on proper mask wearing. Make your cloth mask part of your costume. A costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask. Do NOT wear a costume mask over a cloth mask. It can make breathing more difficult. Masks should NOT be worn by children under the age of two or anyone who has trouble breathing.
Remember to always stay at least six feet away from others who do not live with you. Indoors and outdoors, you are more likely to get or spread COVID-19 when you are in close contact with others for a long time.
Don’t let excitement about the holiday distract you from proper COVID-19 procedures. Wash your hands. Bring hand sanitizer with you and use it after touching objects or other people. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Parents should supervise young children using hand sanitizer. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home and before you eat any treats.
Other suggestions for enjoying Halloween activities during the global COVID-19 pandemic include: decorating and carving pumpkins, decorate your home for Halloween, and you can walk from house to house, admiring Halloween decorations at a distance. You could also visit an orchard, forest, or corn maze. You can also go on an outdoor Halloween-themed scavenger hunt. Visit a pumpkin patch or orchard. Whatever you do or wherever you go be sure to remember to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, especially after touching frequently touched surfaces, pumpkins, or apples.
The CDC also suggested that you can hide Halloween treats in and around your house and hold a Halloween treat hunt with household members. The CDC suggested that you can hold an outdoor costume parade or contest so everyone can show off their costumes. Another suggestion is that you host an outdoor Halloween movie night with friends or neighbors or an indoor movie night with just your household members.
Etowah County Republicans rally for Trump
The Etowah County Republican Party and the Trump campaign will be holding a Celebrate America rally and prayer meeting on Sunday in anticipation of Tuesday’s general election.
“We the People plan to peacefully assemble at our town square Tomorrow, November 1st at 2:00 PM to rally around President Trump and pray for our nation, our first responders, and for our President,” organizers said.
Remarks will be made by special guest Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville.
Singer songwriters Camille and Haley will perform.
Pastors Mark Gidley, Joey Jones and Bruce Word will be speaking.
“Bring your friends and family as we pray, celebrate and rally for America!” organizers said. “Our outdoor program and rally will be an amazing hour that you will not want to miss! Please mark your calendars and please share.”
Patriotic attire, American flags, and Trump flags are welcome. The event will be in the Rainbow City Town hall parking lot.
Robert Aderholt is in his twelfth term representing Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District. Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District is where Trump had his greatest margin of victory in the entire country in 2016.
President Trump and Congressman Aderholt both face Democratic challengers in Tuesday’s general election.
Jones says Senate race a choice between “substance and leadership, and nothing”
“One of the great disappointments in this campaign is that Alabama is not really getting choices between substance and substance,” Jones said.
Speaking outside the Calhoun County Democratic Party headquarters in Anniston on Friday, Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, told a group of supporters that Alabamians haven’t gotten a look at what his Republican opponent might do if he wins the Nov. 3 election.
“One of the great disappointments in this campaign is that Alabama is not really getting choices between substance and substance,” Jones said. “They’re getting a choice between substance and leadership, and nothing — nothing. We have not heard anything from Tommy Tuberville about what he really wants to do.”
While Jones has held numerous interviews with the media, and regular web briefings over the summer and in recent weeks, Tuberville’s campaign seems to prefer the safety of keeping Tuberville from making possible gaffs or damaging statements in interviews.
Tuberville hasn’t agreed to interviews with traditional media outlets, or to debate Jones, and instead has focused on conservative talk radio spots, speaking to smaller Republican groups and at private parties.
Tuberville’s campaign has ignored or denied our numerous attempts to interview Tuberville, including another request on Friday. He also declined to attend a student forum held at Auburn University on Wednesday, which Jones attended. The forum was sponsored by the Auburn College Republicans and College Democrats.
“If you ever hear something Tommy Tuberville says, it is just simply this: ‘Build a wall. No amnesty. Drain the swamp.’ That ain’t him. That’s Donald Trump,” Jones said. “He cannot think for himself. He doesn’t think for himself.”
Jones spoke of his record of working to help veterans through legislation. And he referred to Tuberville’s nonprofit for veterans and reporting that indicates, through tax records, that less than a third of the money raised for Tuberville’s charity went to help veterans.
“I don’t just create charities and send only pennies on the dollar. I do things for the veterans of this state and this country,” Jones said.
Jones also made a case for Alabamians to remember the contributions past Democrats made in the state. Jones said it was Democratic Sen. John Sparkman who helped build Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal.
“It was a Democrat, Lester Hill, who built the rural hospitals around here that Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell and Tommy Tuberville are trying to destroy,” Jones said. “It was Howell Heflin who built up agriculture in this state. Those are the Democrats. It was Franklin Rosevelt that put electricity in this state. We’re going to do the same thing for broadband. People forget those things. They forget those things because we’ve let other people define us with lies.”
Jones plans to visit Jefferson County on Saturday, then on to the Black Belt and Mobile on Sunday with another stop in Birmingham on Monday afternoon.
“The goal is to get everybody out. That’s the thing if we want to continue to ensure Alabama moves forward — moves forward and not backwards, to continue to have somebody, if I do say so myself, somebody that’s just not going to damn embarrass us,” Jones said.
“We’ve had too much of that in Alabama,” Jones said, “and I bet you it won’t be a year that Tommy Tuberville would be an embarrassment to this state because he doesn’t know the issues. He doesn’t know what to do, and he’s dang sure not going to know what to do when Donald Trump is not president of the United States.”
Jones encouraged supporters to be skeptical of recent polling. One such recent poll, by Auburn University at Montgomery, puts Tuberville ahead of Jones by 12 percentage points, 54 to 42.1. An internal poll by Tuberville’s campaign puts Tuberville ahead by 15 percentage points, while an internal poll from the Jones camp put Jones ahead by one percentage point.
“Don’t listen to these polling folks that come in, and they don’t know Alabama, and they don’t know what they’re doing. We’re tracking this race, and I can tell you, everything has been moving in our direction the last two months,” Jones said.
People standing along roadsides holding his signs and showing support, Jones said, is “the energy we’ve got out there. That’s what you can’t poll.”
Ellen Bass of Anniston, standing outside the Calhoun County Democratic Party headquarters just after Jones spoke, told APR that she has numerous Republican friends who are voting for Jones.
“My hat’s off to them because they’re coming out,” Bass said. “They recognize that he is a better candidate.”
Ciara Smith, 21, newly elected to the Anniston City Council, told APR outside the headquarters building that Jones is the better candidate.
“I think that he’s educated. I think that he speaks with passion and heart,” Smith said. “And he knows what he’s talking about, which is important, and which is more than we can say about the other candidate.”
Speaking to APR after his speech to supporters, Jones said that he feels very good about the state of his campaign.
“Everything we’re seeing is moving in our direction,” Jones said. “And the more he stays hidden, the better it is for us.”