Former Alabama Governor Bob Riley is under investigation by the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office, according to a new report from The Montgomery Independent.
The news comes as defendants in the federal bingo trial have stated they will not call any witnesses, meaning closing arguments are expected tomorrow and Riley will not be called in the case. That comes as no surprise to those of us who have watched Riley give new meaning to the term "Teflon governor."
But Ellen Brooks, who has been Montgomery County DA since 1993, might try to put a few scratches in Riley's protective coating. We have only one question for Ms. Brooks: What took you so long?
On the premise that late is better than never, let's take a look at the The Montgomery Independent's report:
The Montgomery Independent has learned from multiple credible sources that the District Attorney's office in the 15th Judicial Circuit (Montgomery County) has been investigating certain activities of former Gov. Bob Riley that occurred during his two terms as governor and includes lobbying for firms which received lucrative state contracts under his tenure.
The District Attorney in Montgomery is given specific authority under state law to investigate activities of state government and state officers throughout Alabama.
What might be of particular interest about the Riley era?
The former governor, with much fanfare, began a career as a lobbyist, soon after he left office, hiring on wealthy business clients, some which he awarded state contracts and business during his two terms as governor.
Riley's client list included Gulf Coast Asphalt Co., which has offices in Houston and Mobile, and Brett Real Estate Robinson Development Co. in Saraland. His other clients included Austal USA, EADS North American, and VT Systems Inc. -- Austal USA builds Navy ships in Mobile; EADS North American is based in Arlington and would have built a refueling tanker in Mobile if it had won the federal contract, and VT Systems is the parent of a company that operates an aircraft maintenance facility in Mobile.
How far could the Brooks inquiry go? Well, Team Riley already is showing signs of being under pressure:
Then there are dozens of other firms who have profited under Riley's administration, including the phantom company called "Paragon Source" which received a $13 million no-bid contract from Riley's Administration for work product the state never used. Questions remain about where this firm went and how much did it really walk off with from the State.
In another turn connected to the Riley lobbying gig, it has been reported on the street that the former governor has, in the past few days, turned his lobbying clients over to a family member. The Independent has learned that some of the complaints were made by the State Democratic Party.
Democrats might have filed complaints about Riley, but our guess is that "Teflon Bob" will get off the hook unless Republican insiders step forward. Will Ellen Brooks seek testimony from former Riley aide Bill Johnson and former GOP official Bradley Unruh?
Unruh was a key figure in our post titled "Viewing Mike Hubbard's Actions Through the Prism of the Don Siegelman Case," where he called for an audit of the Alabama Republican Party that would focus on expenditures involving Riley's daughter, Minda Riley Campbell.
The Montgomery Independent's report raises many questions:
* Why did Ellen Brooks sit silently for eight years of the Riley administration while the governor and his cronies repeatedly engaged in questionable activities? Why did she wait until now to rise from her slumber?
* Where is George Beck, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. Any possible crimes involving Bob Riley surely involve federal jurisdiction. The USA's office in Montgomery has not been shy about going after former governors. (You can ask Don Siegelman about that.) So where is George Beck in this equation?
* Where is Luther Strange, attorney general of Alabama? His office has been bringing a dubious case against accused honeymoon murderer Gabe Watson, so has "Big Luther" been too busy to look toward Bob Riley. Oh wait, Big Luther came from Bradley Arant, the big firm that seems to be the legal enabler for corrupt "pro business types" such as Bob Riley and Ted Rollins. That means Big Luther has been firmly embedded in Bob Riley's colon, so no scrutiny is likely to come from the AG's office.
We aren't holding our breath that Bob Riley ever will be held accountable for anything. But The Montgomery Independent has done some important reporting on corruption in Karl Rove's Alabama, and we take their work seriously. The public should take it seriously, too.
If Ellen Brooks digs like a terrier, perhaps like a schnauzer, she is likely to find some profoundly disturbing stuff. How disturbing? The following interview with Brad Unruh gives an idea: