Suspicious ATV purchase may mean trouble
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY–The shoe has finally dropped in the long-running grand jury investigation of alleged wrongdoing in the administration of Gov. Don Siegelman.
Three men have have been iudicted by a federal grand jury and two of them at one time were very close friends of Siegelman: Nick Bailey, who held a variety of top-level Cabinet posts, and lobbyist Lanny Young.
Both of them, along with Montgomery architect Curtis Kirsch, have all entered pleas of guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and have agreed to assist prosecutors with the probe.
Specifically, Young and Kirsch were charged with paying Bailey cash and items of value in exchange for state business. If convicted of these crimes each could serve a maximum of five years in prison.
While some of the alleged misconduct involved contracts in the millions of dollars, most of the media attention has been focused on an admission by Bailey that in 2000 he told Young to provide a motorcycle, ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) and a trailer for the ATV for an "unidentified state official."
Further investigation has confirmed that Gov. Siegelman purchased all three of those pieces of equipment at the same time. The evidence strongly suggests he was the "unidentified state official" who was the recepient of Young's gift.
The state ethics law expressly prohibits a public official from taking a gift worth more than $100 from an individual on a single occasion, and it caps the gifts a person can give in one year to an official at $250.
The Honda Valkyrie motorcycle cost $9,200 and the ATV and trailer cost $5,324.
Neither Gov. Siegelman nor his attorney has commented on the acquistion of this equipment but court records show that Siegelman got a utility trailer on the very same day that Young said he purchased such a trailer.
While much attention was being focused on these purchases, far more serious was the involvement of Bailey, Young and Kirsch in a deal to build two huge warehouses in Montgomery for the state.
The charges in the indictment allege that Young paid Bailey more than $100,000 to arrange for a company he had founded…G.H. Construction Company…to be awarded a no-bid contract to build the warehouses. The contract was subsequently voided.
While Siegelman made no comment regarding the purchase of the vehicles and trailer, his attorney, Bobby Segall, did issue a statement saying that the governor "has provided and will continue to provide all requested information to the appropriate officials."
The bottom line on this continuing investigation–it will get worse before it gets better.
The Legislative Black Caucus has threatened mass demonstrations to protest Riley's action, and several of them predicted that the governor's action will cause many blacks to vote against his tax reform package.
The felon voting bill passed on the final day of the Regular Session of the Legislature after an agreement was reached with conservative Republicans. They agreed to vote for the felon voting bill if blacks would allow a voter ID bill to pass.
Riley signed the voter ID bill into law but killed the felon bill, saying it was unnecessary. Ex-felons can now apply for the restoration of their voting rights but it is a cumbersome procedure that often-times takesmany months.
Gov. Riley insisted his pocket veto of the bill was not linked to race.
"Attempts have been made by some to make this into an issue of race," Riley said. "I believe crime is not a black or white issue."
More than two-thirds of the inmates in Alabama prisons are black.