What can make an arrogant Republican crumble in fear? The thought of having to testify under oath about his corrupt actions.
That's the lesson to take from reports that Alabama Governor Bob Riley has agreed to settle a lawsuit, in the face of a tight deadline for his deposition. A state judge had refused to dismiss the lawsuit and given both sides until September 20 to complete depositions--and opposing counsel had indicated that Riley would be among those questioned under oath.
Knowing that depositions can be wide ranging--and this one could have covered issues related to campaign finance, no-bid contracts, and other uncomfortable matters--Riley decided it would be a good idea to pay up.
Reports the Associated Press:
Gov. Bob Riley has agreed for the state to pay the legal fees of a law firm that a legislative committee hired to sue the governor over an unbid computer contract, officials said Wednesday.
Tommy Gallion, an attorney who represented the law firm, said the governor agreed to pay the $78,000 sought by Thomas, Means, Gillis and Seay. Riley also agreed to a payment of about $15,000 to Gallion. The Montgomery law firm had originally in February asked the state to pay $26,740 for its work representing the Legislature's Contract Review Committee.
You can always count on a Riley spokesperson to make a cartoonish attempt to explain away the governor's problems, and Jeff Emerson doesn't disappoint this time. Reports AP:
Riley's communications director, Jeff Emerson, confirmed the governor had agreed to settle the case to avoid costly, drawn-out litigation.
The settlement came after Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tom King last month denied a motion by Riley and state Comptroller Thomas White to dismiss the lawsuit. Emerson said King's ruling made it apparent he would eventually order the state to pay the legal fees.
"We believe the judge would not have changed his mind at trial and the state would have been forced to appeal, which would have added to the cost," Emerson said. "Unlike the plaintiffs, we don't want to waste taxpayer money on this political battle against the governor."
Emerson is so full of horse feces, the stuff must be oozing from his eye sockets. The facts indicate that Riley's decision to settle had nothing to do with his concern for taxpayers.
Riley could have given a deposition and still saved the taxpayers money by resolving the case shortly thereafter. In fact, if the governor really wanted to make sure the public knew the truth at no cost, he could have paid the deposition expenses out of his own pocket.
But he chose to settle matters now--before the September 20 deadline--because he did not want to have to give a deposition. Specifically, he did not want to face the possibility of having to testify under oath about the campaign support he received from Mississippi gambling interests--laundered through Jack Abramoff--and the huge gobs of state dollars he has shipped to family members and their associates.
What else can we learn from the lawsuit settlement? It appears that "Big Boss" Bob Riley might be in a weakened state. Is it possible that some folks don't fear the governor anymore?
Consider Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tom King, who was assigned to the Thomas Means case after Montgomery County judges recused themselves. First, would the Montgomery judges have recused themselves from such a case just a year or two ago, when Riley seemed invincible? We doubt it. And what about King, the guy who refused to dismiss the lawsuit and then put Riley under a tight deadline for a deposition? Is he an unusually ethical and fearless judge? It's possible, but we doubt it. If the Thomas Means case had come before him a year or two ago, we suspect King would have let the governor off the hook.
Have conditions changed for perhaps the most corrupt governor in Alabama history? Well, Riley is a lame-duck governor who will leave office in January 2011. His hand-picked successor, Bradley Byrne, got thrashed in the Republican Party primary. And even Riley's trusted friends on the Alabama Supreme Court seem reluctant to help at the moment, given that they are under investigation for possible misconduct connected to gambling-related rulings that went in the governor's favor.
We felt certain that Riley would avoid a deposition in the Thomas Means lawsuit by filing an emergency motion with the Alabama Supreme Court. But Justice Glenn Murdock, a strong Riley ally who has written numerous favorable rulings for the governor, is facing scrutiny for failing to disclose conflicts of interest-- so that easy path might be closed for now.
If Alabama Democrats were smart, they would pounce now and make Riley pay dearly for visiting untold sleaze upon our state over the past eight years. But Alabama Democrats have proven time and again that they are not so sharp. And with the Obama administration seemingly incapable of appointing a real U.S. attorney in Montgomery, the feds aren't likely to do anything about it.
Our guess is that Bob Riley will eventually walk away scot free, and his family members and cronies will continue to hose Alabama citizens for years.
But to watch the governor squirm when faced with having to give a deposition? It was maybe our favorite political moment of 2010--and it was fun while it lasted.