|Alabama AG 'Big' Luther and the 'Mighty Whitey' Haley Barbour|
Justice is itself the great standing policy of civil society; and any eminent departure from it, under any circumstances, lies under the suspicion of being no policy at all.
An press release from the Alabama AG's office announced today that the entire Bullock County Commission was indicted for violating the Alabama no-bid contract law. It resulted in indictments and felony arrests of each and every commission member. The move, by Attorney General Luther Strange, in effect, vacates the entire commission. It was a drastic move that has never, before now, occurred in the state of Alabama:
The matter was referred to the Attorney General's Office by the Alabama Examiners of Public Accounts. An audit covering the time period of October 2008 to September 2009 included a finding by the Examiners that “The Code of Alabama 1975, Section 41-16-50, states that all expenditure of funds of whatever nature for labor, services, work, or for the purchase of materials, equipment, supplies, or other personal property involving $15,000.00 or more should be subject to the Alabama Competitive Bid Law. The Commission paid at least $61,000.00 for supplies and $24,000.00 for food for the Jail without letting bids as required by the Alabama Competitive Bid Law.”
The Examiners had previously issued reports of audits for the years October 2006 to September 2007 and October 2007 to September 2008, the two years prior to the audit under investigation, which also reported that the Commission had paid in excess of $15,000 for food for the jail without letting bids as required by Section 41-16-50.
Bullock County is not the only county in Alabama that's been found to be in violation of Alabama's no-bid contract law, and we have to wonder why they are being held accountable while another "favored' county seemingly escapes the long arm of the law from Luther Strange's office.
A state audit released in October of 2010 revealed that the republican stronghold of Shelby County, Alabama had been found to have an "expired no-bid contract for chemical supplies." Their expenditures dwarfed the amount that got the entire Bullock County Commission arrested and thrown in the clink. An additional alarming finding of employee theft was also revealed in the Shelby County audit:
The State of Alabama Auditor’s Office released the results of the Shelby County audit for 2008/2009 on October 8, 2010. The report reveals theft of county funds by an “unidentified” county employee on 19 separate occasions totaling $15,403.61. Fictitious adjustments to a bank reconciliation were done to help to hide the evidence. A separate finding of the audit showed that the county jail spent $187,950.00 on “chemical supplies” in a no-bid contact that had expired.
♦ 2009-01 relates to a former employee of the Commission making fictitious adjustments to bank reconciliations and making unauthorized withdrawals from bank accounts.
♦ 2009-02 relates to the Commission’s failure to properly bid purchases in accordance with the Code of Alabama 1975, Section 41-16-50.
The Bullock County story includes this disclaimer of sorts:
"No further information about the investigation or about the defendants' alleged crimes other than that stated in the indictments may be released at this time."
There may be more to the Bullock County action than what we know at this time, but from the basis of the indictments, it certainly appears that selective justice is being applied in a horribly uneven manner in determining when a violation of Alabama's no-bid law becomes actionable and felonious.
Shelby County violated the exact same law that Bullock County is accused of, and in a more egregious manner to boot, and nothing happened to that commission. Not even a whisper of an investigation or impropriety was ever raised.
From where we sit, this abets some serious questions about the ability of the Alabama Attorney General's office to render fair and even applications of Alabama's laws without prejudice.
A 2010 sample ballot for Bullock County reveals that it is a democratic stronghold that's been on the radar of the AG's office and the Shelby County native Secretary of State Beth Chapman-R before in 2008 for voting irregularities.
It's no secret that the steamroller of conservatism is in full throttle after the recent elections, and we're seeing some serious overreaching and gloating of power by the republicans who appear to be hell-bent on the extinction of all things liberal. We have to wonder what part politics plays in this because in Alabama it's always about politics and power.
Four out of five of the Bullock County Commissioners are black, 75% of the county is black. In Shelby County, all of the commissioners are white, staunchly republican, and the commission head is a cousin of Governor Bentley. Make of that what you will, if anything. We're really hoping the days of Jim Crow are behind us, but not holding our collective breaths that much has changed in the land of chains and cotton.
If what's just happened in Bullock County is based in any part in the frenzied crusade of the right, and they are willing to apply the laws of Alabama selectively and with deliberate unfairness for partisan purposes, then we're all in a hell of a lot more trouble than we can even begin to realize.Subscribe in a reader