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Corruption

Sexual misconduct allegations at Department of Corrections kept from public by bureaucracy

Bill Britt

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A top official at the Alabama Department of Corrections was allowed to retire quietly after reportedly confessing to inappropriate sexual relations with multiple women in his chain of command.

Grantt D. Culliver, Associate Commissioner with the Alabama Department of Corrections, retired effective Nov. 30, 2018, with his full state pension and a check for approximately $30,000 in unrealized benefits.

According to half a dozen individuals who spoke with APR on deep background, Culliver, who oversaw operations at all state correctional facilities, came under severe scrutiny after two complaints were filed accusing him of using his office to pressure women for sex.

One complaint from high-ranking officials at the Department of Corrections is said to have been ignored by the office of DOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn. But when the same allegations reached Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk, her administration demanded an immediate and thorough probe into Culliver’s conduct.

According to personnel records obtained by APR on Sep. 14, 2018, Culliver was placed on mandatory leave. The document reads in part, “Your absence from work is deemed to be in the best interest of the department due to the nature of the allegations against you.”

Culliver, over several years, used his position at DOC to coerce women under his command into sexual liaisons in return for promotions or other considerations, according to sources who spoke with APR. He also allegedly transferred females who rebuffed his advances. “If a female staffer didn’t have sex with him, she was transferred to Timbuktu, Alabama,” said one source. “And if you did, it meant promotions or other favors,” the source further stated.

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An investigation into allegations against Culliver was carried out by the office of Attorney General Steve Marshall. During the investigation, Culliver, according to those with knowledge of the inquiry, confessed to having sexual relations with six women under his authority.

Marshall handed over the results of his office’s investigation to DOC instead of filing a criminal complaint. DOC Commissioner Dunn then turned the findings over to Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton where it remains out of public view.

In 2009, the Alabama Supreme Court in “Alabama Department of Corrections v. Mary Barksdale et al” held that the results of these types of investigations are public records under the state’s Open Meetings Act and cannot be kept from public review once the investigation is complete. However, by placing the findings with the Alabama Ethics Commission, the public may never know the whole story behind Culliver’s forced retirement.

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It is widely suspected that Dunn, Marshall and others conspired to cover up allegations against Culliver.

This would not be the first time Marshall protected a man accused of sexually assaulting a female staffer; and Dunn may have reasons of his own for preventing the public from knowing the details of Culliver activities since Dunn hired Culliver against the advice of others in the department.

Culliver was first promoted to associate commissioner in Aug. 2014, by then-DOC Commissioner Kim Thomas. He was removed from that position on Jan 29, 2015, by interim DOC Commissioner William G. Sharpe following Thomas’ mandatory retirement by then-Gov. Robert Bentley.

Allegations of sexual misconduct are reportedly why Sharpe demoted Culliver.

Dunn, according to APR sources, was aware of the claims against Culliver but promoted him once again to associate commissioner on June 1, 2015.

APR sources report that Dunn and Culliver met shortly before his reappointment and that Culliver assured Dunn that he would conduct himself according to DOC policy if reinstated to his former rank.

Ignoring the advice of those around him, Dunn reappointed Culliver to associate commissioner.

From 2015, until his hushed departure in Nov. 2018, Culliver was accused of having sex with women who worked under him at DOC. He retired with full benefits after the findings from Marshall’s office landed at the Ethics Commission, where they now languish far from public examination.

Dunn wrote in Culliver’s personnel file on Oct. 31, 2018, “Grantt D. Culliver is not recommended for reemployment due to alleged violation of Administrative. Reg. 208, Employee Standards of Conduct and Discipline.”

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Corruption

Former Barbour County sheriff arrested, charged with taking money from sheriff’s office

Upshaw was charged with two crimes connected to taking more than $85,000 from several accounts that belong to the sheriff’s office.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Tuesday announced the arrest of Leroy Davie Upshaw, the former sheriff of Barbour County, on charges that he used his office for personal gain. 

Upshaw, 49, surrendered to the Barbour County Sheriff’s Office on Monday and was released on bond, according to a Marshall’s office. He had served as sheriff until his term ended in January 2019. 

Upshaw was charged with two crimes connected to taking more than $85,000 from several accounts that belong to the sheriff’s office, Marshall’s office alleges. One charge alleges that he used his public office to receive personal financial gain and the other charge alleges that he used his office to obtain financial gain for members of his family. 

The Dothan Eagle reported in 2018 that Upshaw’s troubles began when the sheriff’s office was audited and cited for 11 errors, including one in which Upshaw gave himself the additional salary that had gone to the former work release administrator.

If convicted of the class B felony of using his office for personal gain, Upshaw could face up to 20 years in prison.

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Corruption

Attorney general opposes motion to reconsider Hubbard’s prison sentence

“Hubbard is not being punished for his reversed convictions. He is being punished for the crimes of which he remains convicted,” Marshall wrote to the court. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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Former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard reported for his prison sentence at the Lee County Detention Facility on Sept. 11.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall in a court filing Tuesday opposed a request by former House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s attorney for the court to reconsider his 4-year sentence on six felony ethics violations.

Marshall in the filing said that after four years of appeals, Hubbard remains convicted of those felonies.

“This Court’s carefully calibrated sentence of a four-year split, among other penalties, properly accounted for the severity of Hubbard’s crimes, the position of trust he abused, and the need for serious penalties to deter other wrongdoers,” Marshall wrote to the court. “In addition, Hubbard’s refusal to admit any guilt or express any remorse makes him wholly unfit to receive any leniency now that he is finally in jail.”

“In sum, nothing material has changed since Hubbard earned his four-year sentence four years ago. It’s simply time for him to serve it. Accordingly, his motion should be denied,’ Marshall continued.

Hubbard had originally been convicted by a Lee County jury on 12 ethics violations, and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld 11 of those convictions, but the Alabama Supreme Court later reversed five of those convictions and upheld six.

He began serving his four-year sentence for the six convictions of using his office for personal gain on Sept. 11.

Hubbard’s attorney argued in a separate court filing that the court should reconsider his sentence because five of the 12 convictions were reversed, but Marshall told the court Tuesday that the sentence Hubbard received was just.

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“Hubbard is not being punished for his reversed convictions. He is being punished for the crimes of which he remains convicted,” Marshall wrote to the court.

Hubbard’s attorney in his request to reconsider sentencing also argued that Hubbard has already suffered from a “divestment of his business interests.”

Hubbard’s convictions related to consulting contracts that enriched him while he served as speaker.

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The state’s attorney general at the time of his conviction determined that Hubbard had bilked Alabama out of more than $2 million.

“Suffice it to say, it is a bad advocacy strategy for Hubbard to mourn his loss of an income stream worth millions, which he financed on the backs of hard-working Alabamians who expected an honest elected official. That Hubbard has lost some of these ill-gotten gains in no way suggests that Hubbard has paid back his debt to society,” Marshall wrote to the court.

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Corruption

Former State Sen. David Burkette pleads guilty, avoids jail

Josh Moon

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Former Alabama Sen. David Burkette

Former State Sen. David Burkette will avoid jail time and be sentenced to a 30-day suspended sentence as part of a plea deal reached on Monday. 

Burkette, who pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act, will also have to pay a $3,000 fine and serve 12 months of probation as part of the deal. He was sentenced in Montgomery Circuit Court on Monday after being charged two weeks ago with failing to deposit more than $3,600 in contributions into campaign accounts — a misdemeanor.

He also resigned his seat in the Alabama Senate as part of the plea deal. 

“I’m just happy to still be here,” Burkette told the court following his sentencing, according to multiple media reports. 

The former senator suffered a stroke in 2018 and has been confined to a wheelchair since. His current health status played a role in his sentence considerations. 

The charges against Burkette stem from a series of complaints filed against him with the Alabama Ethics Commission — all of them related to various issues during his time on the Montgomery City Council. The charge for which he pleaded guilty occurred in 2015.

The Ethics Commission referred numerous charges to the Alabama attorney general’s office, according to sources familiar with the investigation of Burkette, but the attorney general’s office elected to charge Burkette with only the misdemeanor as part of the deal that saw him resign. 

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“Candidates for public office at the state, county and municipal levels must comply with the State’s Fair Campaign Practices Act,” said Attorney General Steve Marshall. “Personally profiting from campaign funds erodes public confidence in the system and will not be tolerated.”

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Corruption

Mike Hubbard’s attorney asks court to reconsider prison sentence

Eddie Burkhalter

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Mike Hubbard reported to the Lee County Jail on Sept. 11, 2020. (VIA LEE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE)

One week after he began serving his prison sentence, the attorney for former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard has asked the court to reconsider his four-year sentence.

Hubbard, 57, began serving his sentence on Sept. 11 after being free on an appeals bond for four years. He was ultimately convicted on six felony charges of using his office for personal gain.

“Mike Hubbard is not a danger to society, nor a threat to the public and a revised sentence will better serve the State’s interest in rehabilitation and the ends of justice,” Hubbard’s Birmingham attorney, David McKnight, wrote to the Lee County Circuit Court on Friday.

Hubbard had originally been convicted by a Lee County jury on 12 ethics violations, and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld 11 of those convictions, but the Alabama Supreme Court later reversed five of those convictions and upheld six.

McKnight, in his motion to the court, argues that due process compels the court to reconsider Hubbard’s sentence, and that his removal from office, loss of the right to vote and “divestment of business interests” have already punished the former House speaker.

The state’s attorney general at the time of his conviction determined that Hubbard had bilked Alabama out of more than $2 million.

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