Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"New Day in Alabama" Ethics Reforms Keeps Sunshine Off of Senator Trip Pittman's BP Fleece Job

Illustration credit:J.D.Crowe Press-Register
We knew the newly anointed 'I'm for ethics reform' republicans would find a way to protect their own, but this is beyond infuriating and a slap in the face to all Alabamians.

Alabama Ethics Commission director James Sumner just announced that the new ethics laws recently passing the Alabama legislature cannot be used retroactively against Senator Trip Pittman. Pittman is facing an ethics complaint after his company received the lion's share of the $1.2 million allotted to Baldwin County by BP. 

Fairhope resident Paul Ripp filed an initial complaint against Pittman on Sept. 27.

The complaint stems from a contract awarded last June by the Fairhope City Council to Pittman’s company, Pittman Tractor, for oil spill response work after Pittman had been chosen by former Gov. Bob Riley to help oversee the division of BP funding awarded to Baldwin County, according to published reports.

Ripp sent a separate 130-page document with additional allegations Jan. 16, but Sumner said that filing would be considered a supplement to the initial complaint and not treated as a new complaint filed after the new provisions were enacted.
Sumner claims that only cases filed after the new laws were enacted would be subject to the "toughest ethics reforms in the nation." Let's listen to a bit from Mr. Sumner about ethics: (-1.23 mark in the clip)

"..we will take this state a quantum step further than that to a platinum level of ethics reform." Too bad he didn't add, "But our buddy Trip Pittman will be exempt from scrutiny."

And this from a NY Times article December 2010:
“I think it’s just been institutional resistance,” said James L. Sumner, the director of the Alabama Ethics Commission. “You could never actually single out a person or a group that was opposed to ethics reform. It was essentially death by a thousand cuts.”

And it could be death from one great big hatchet wielded by Sumner himself in the Pittman case. If you have the head of the EC delivering a fatal blow to a serious complaint based on a technicality that may suit him, but doesn't pass the smell test with the public, what do you think will happen to any others that come before this figurehead entity?

Perhaps this tractor of a technicality explains the flippant attitude of Senator Pittman, Baldwin County Manger Bob James and the latest bloviator to enter the fray, Fairhope Mayor Tim 'the rant' Kant. All three men have shown nothing but indifferent arrogance towards their detractors, which are steadily growing in number, and have recently resorted to verbally attacking anyone who questions their previous dubious activities. 

Pittman is in full force gloat with this announcement:
“I look forward to working with the ethics commission so they can investigate and dismiss this baseless complaint, and we can all turn our attention to solving the serious problems and challenges that face Alabama,” Pittman said Monday.

The Alabama legislature knew what they were doing when they passed these new laws, the complaint against Pittman was already filed, and it's a downright shame that no one thought to ask for a retroactive provision or at least raised the question: what about the Pittman complaint? But then again, did anyone really think this would happen and the complaint would be tossed on a time technicality of a mere two months?

Looking at it in hindsight, we should have. But this new republican controlled legislature doesn't get off the hook that easy, and if they were serious about real reform (which they ALL campaigned on) this case is an excellent chance for them to step out of yesterday's mud pit of corruption and show Alabamians that they are willing to clean up their act.

So far it seems all they are capable of is business as usual, selective scrutiny (reserved for the bad ol' democrats) and empty promises. And if they have their way, Pittman will walk away from justice unscathed and almost $700,000.00 richer courtesy of the pillars of righteousness in charge of the new legislature and Ethics Commission.

The next time someone proclaims that "New Day in Alabama Politics" phrase to you in the same breath as ethics and accountability make sure you ask them: WHEN?
*January 23, 2011 Op-Ed from James L. Sumner Huntsville Times

*Legal Schnauzer offers an excellent article on another angle of Alabama profiteering and Alabama AG Strange's connections to Transocean in the wake of the BP Oil Spill.
Bookmark and Share


  1. Whiskey tango Foxtrot????
    Are kidding me with this????
    This is technical BS and just shows all of us that it's BAU in corrupt Alabama!!!!

  2. If Pittman sold boom that is one ethics violation as an elected official. If he is saying that he is Oil Recovery of AL thats another(Lie)Oil Recovery has been an AL Contractors for years. You have to have Longshoreman Insurance to even work off of a pier or dock and it is not cheap. Pittman is in the earth moving business not working over water. Someone had to produce an insurance document stating this to the City of Fairhope.
    How far is everybody willing to go under the banner of a technicality to subvert the truth?
    The feds will have to get into this.

  3. New day my *SS!
    If Sumner thinks this explanation does him any good in the eye of the public he is SORELY MISTAKEN!

  4. Sumner is doing this at the advisement of slick lawyers and maybe a few politicians who have something to hide in this deal themselves. It's a convenient excuse that doesn't pass muster with the public and he knows it. They're all just hoping it blows over and goes away and asking the press to enable that to happen. Which they will be only to happy to do.

  5. Let's follow the trail of "you're in charge"...
    Riley put Sumner in charge of the Ethics Commission.
    Riley puts Senator Pittman in charge of the $1.2 million.
    Sumner then bails on going after Pittman.
    Anymore questions about what is going on here?

  6. They're circling the wagons and protecting more than just Pittman. BarT is on the right path with his thoughts.

  7. I smell monkeys and bananas.

  8. First real test of ethics legislation---FAIL.
    Campaign promises of rooting out corruption---FAIL
    Alabamians can have faith in their new government---FAIL
    Chances that this story will go front and center in Alabama newspapers---FAIL
    How are we doing so far?

  9. At least the Press-Register ran a story today and raised even more questions of the Senator's complete lack of good judgment. We'll see who else goes with it.

    Pittman Oil Boom Contract

    Mr. Pittman gives himself away when he acknowledges he should have recused himself and the writer should have followed that with: Why didn't you Senator?

    That was either the inexperience of the writer, not considered or purposeful. I'm not sure which applies.

  10. We've received a copy of a letter that was sent to the Alabama Ethics Commission, Attorney General Luther Strange and various press outlets from Dr. Chris Warner (a past candidate for Mayor of Fairhope) and are reprinting here with his permission:

    Dear Mr. James Sumner and Mr. Hugh Evans, III
    Alabama Ethics Commission

    February 2, 2011

    Dear Sirs:

    I am wholeheartedly confused.

    I thought the intent of the new Ethics Legislation in Alabama was to strengthen
    our ability to prosecute public officials who purposefully use their elected
    position to affect personal financial gain. The legislature spent six weeks on
    this matter, deliberating its lasting impact on the state's business on behalf
    of the people.

    I read with great interest the article in the Fairhope Courier by Mike Odom
    yesterday that stated that your office would not investigate this "baseless"
    claim (Mr. Pittman's words).

    Is this matter dead before the Ethics Commission?

    Can another Fairhope or Baldwin County resident take up the activist flag of
    good government and respectfully ask that your office do its purported job of
    investigating ethics concerns involving public officials?

    Is this a statement that the Ethics Commission will no longer look into facts
    provided by citizens indicating impropriety by politicians while in office?

    Please comment to all of those on this list, as we are scratching our heads
    trying to see how this affront to Alabama citizens is going to pass the smell
    taste among the state's rank and file electorate.

    The recent political cartoon by JD Crowe depicting a fat, pink pig in a suit
    labeled "AL Ethics" is obviously right on the mark.

    Thank you much.


    Dr. Chris E. Warner
    Fairhope, AL

  11. There's a dark thread running through all of this called Riley. How he has escaped investigation throughout his eight years of pillage and plunder is mind boggling.

  12. Good letter Dr. Warner.
    Hope to see the reply to it?
    This is one hell of cover our buddies behind if ever I have seen one. I bet there are more than a few high ups under the disheveled covers of this bed of lies.

  13. This is going to have to be added to Civics and Alabama History Books. But how are you going to explain what is happening to the students. Right or Wrong to take money and switch paperwork while in office!! Did the Senator Tripp Pittman and his partners steal the money and where is it right now. Right now is where the IRS and DOJ need to be investigating in how many accounts in North, Central and South AL Bank accounts (Offshore Under other names also). Not just Alabama but the whole country is watching this issue. It has made history for sure. This is real bad for Alabama!!!

  14. Thank you Max. Please update this story frequently.

  15. Chris, Mr. Sumner didn't say he wouldn't investigate. He said that the new ethics law doesn't apply. One cannot violate a law that does not exist, and ex post facto application of laws to offenses occuring before the passage of the laws in unconstitutional. There's nothing confusing or scandalous about Mr. Sumner's response to Mr. Odom's questions. He has not foreclosed the possibility of an investigation, but merely stated that it will be limited to whether Mr. Pittman violated the ethics provisions in place at the time the acts were allegedly committed.

  16. Someone should file a complaint on the Ethics Commission for not having any ethics.

    Just a thought. Might work in Alabammy.

  17. Mr. Sumner has signaled his willingness to drag his feet, drag out the case, with the caveat of if they take it up at all, so what more do you need to understand they have no desire to investigate?
    Let me add a caveat, investigate FULLY, not superficially.
    I don't think there's any question this was a huge breech of the public trust and if this is not a compelling case of egregious ethics violations, despite the "out," the legislature conveniently gave Pittman, then what is your measure of an ethics violation Anon # 3?

  18. This is Anon # 3. My personal opinion of what is or is not ethical is irrelevant if it's not based on some common understanding. One cannot be expected to conform one's behavior to the whims (emphasis on whims) of the public because whims change more often than the seasons. This is why we have laws and ethical standards dictating what is and is not appropriate. Thus, my measure of an ethics violation is dependent upon the ethics laws and standards in place at the time the action in question is taken, as those constitute the common understanding by which one can and should be bound to conform one's behavior.

    This is not to say that the laws and standards in place at any given time are adequate or even logical. It is only through circumstances such as now appear, however, that the need for the change of those laws and standards becomes apparent. After all, as Teddy Roosevelt said (kind of), the best way to change an unpopular law is to enforce it honestly.


IP tracking & BS detector is enabled.
Don't set it off.