Thursday, May 9, 2013

Victim of Sexual Harassment Under Gov. Bob Riley Was Forced To Leave Her Job In Settlement Deal

Melissa George Bowman
The State of Alabama paid $53,000 to settle a sexual-harassment complaint against a prominent aide to former Republican Governor Bob Riley. The victim wound up having to leave her job as part of a settlement agreement.

Melissa C. George, who worked in Riley's proclamations office, filed the complaint against communications director David Azbell, according to a report yesterday from Bill Britt at Alabama Political Reporter (APR). Ms. George since has married, and now is Melissa George Bowman.

The story presents a number of parallels to my own experience of being unlawfully terminated from my job as an editor at the University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB) in the midst of the Riley era.

The parallels emerge primarily from this fact that Bill Britt uncovered: Under a settlement agreement, Bowman was forced to leave her job, while Azbell quietly resigned. Azbell, however, has re-emerged as a communications consultant for Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard, bringing down a state salary of $8,000 per month. Azbell also is a partner in the Birmingham political-consulting firm Swatek Azbell Howe &  Ross.

It looks like the victimizer came out better than the victim in this deal. Unfortunately, I've learned a thing or two about such office cheat jobs.

Melissa George Bowman now serves as public relations manager for the Alabama Hospital Association (AHA). This is from a 2012 AHA press release:

Prior to joining the Alabama Hospital Association, Melissa George Bowman was marketing director for Eastdale Mall. She was public relations director for the American Red Cross of Central Alabama and worked in the Alabama governor’s press office under two governors. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Alabama.

How this for irony? The words in bold indicate Bowman started her job in the governor's press office under Don Siegelman--and she was sexually harassed out of her job under Bob Riley.

Britt writes that rumors about Azbell and a sexual-harassment complaint have been floating around Montgomery for roughly a decade. The story now has moved beyond the rumor stage, with confirmation that a settlement was reached in 2003. Reports Britt:

The Alabama Political Reporter has obtained a copy of the Settlement Agreement in which the Riley administration offered a $53,000 pay-off to staffer Melissa C. George, an employee in Riley's proclamations office, to drop the threat of civil lawsuit, quit her state job and quietly go away. The Settlement Agreement, dated Dec. 17, 2003, was signed by Riley, Azbell and Riley's chief of staff, Toby Roth. It described Azbell as having "harassed" and "discriminated" against George. The document also states the neither Riley nor Roth were aware of Azbell's boorish behavior.

According to the settlement agreement, the State of Alabama paid $53,000 to George--with the stipulation that she leave her state job, but as part of the agreement Toby Roth was to write her a letter of recommendation on his official letterhead.

Based on my knowledge of employment law--and I have more experience with the subject than I ever wanted to have--it sounds like Melissa George Bowman settled for a low-ball figure, probably because she was under heavy pressure from seasoned politicians. That she was forced to leave her job says a lot about the way the Riley administration treated women in the workplace. In essence, Melissa Bowman was victimized twice--once by David Azbell and once by Bob Riley and Toby Roth.

No one involved with the case seems anxious to discuss it. Writes Britt:

Melissa George was contacted for this report but would only say she was not suppose to talk about it. However, there can be no valid confidentiality agreement when state dollars are used in such matters.

Telephone messages seeking comment were left for Azbell. He did not return the calls. George apparently provided the Riley administration with a lengthy written complaint documenting Azbell's alleged harassment. No records beyond the Settlement Agreement were found by the state archives. Roth refused to answer questions presented by the Alabama Political Reporter concerning the case. “It was the policy of the Riley administration to not comment on past employees,” he said.

Note the disingenuous tone of Roth's comment. Melissa George Bowman was not an employee of the Riley administration; she was an employee of the State of Alabama, and her settlement was paid with taxpayer dollars. Roth, Riley, and Azbell have obligations to answer questions about this matter. Riley himself should ensure that any related documents--internal memos, e-mails, etc.--are released to the public.

David Azbell
Had Melissa George Bowman filed a sexual-harassment lawsuit in federal court, she could have sued a number of people in their individual capacities--and any funds she received would have come from their personal pockets. It was Bob Riley's decision to hire Azbell, and it was Azbell's behavior that caused the problem. Why didn't the two of them pay from their personal accounts, rather than from taxpayer funds?

Feel free to hold your breath and turn blue while waiting for Bob Riley to reply to that question. Meanwhile, keep in mind that these are the Republicans who constantly assure us that they will be careful with our tax dollars.

The most vexing question is this: Why was Melissa George Bowman, having been harassed and victimized in the workplace, forced to leave her job? We don't know how long Bowman had worked for the state at the time of the settlement agreement. But even if she had just started, she would now have 10 years under her belt--and be vested in the state retirement system--if she had kept her job and chosen to stay with the state. Bowman likely gave up more than she received by agreeing to a deal with the Riley crowd. On the other hand, she probably is relieved to be away from that crowd.

I can identify with Bowman's plight, and I think I know why she was forced to leave her job. Regular readers know that I was cheated out of my job at UAB in May 2008--and I have tape-recorded evidence that proves I was targeted because of my reporting on this blog about the prosecution of Don Siegelman, Bob Riley's chief political rival.

Not only that, I was reporting truthfully on court-related corruption in Shelby County involving Pelham lawyer William E. Swatek. If that name sounds familiar, it's because his son, Dax Swatek, is a partner with David Azbell in the consulting firm referenced above. The Swateks are certified members of the Riley mafia, and my reporting was stepping on some delicate toes.

What probably sealed my fate at UAB was a post on March 13, 2008, about Rob Riley (Bob's lawyer son) and his apparent conflict of interest in connection with a federal lawsuit that grew out of the accounting scandal at Birmingham-based HealthSouth Corporation.

I did not break the story--that honor went to Sam Stein, of Huffington Post--but my reporting on it almost certainly was not welcome news to the Riley crowd. Here is the gist of that 2008 post:

We know that current Governor Bob Riley saw his path to re-election in 2006 become much more clear with Siegelman out of the way.

Now, thanks to the reporting of Sam Stein at The Huffington Post, we know the Riley family benefited in other ways. Birmingham lawyer Rob Riley, son of the Republican governor, made a nice chunk of change from a civil matter that ran parallel to the Siegelman criminal case.

On January 13, 2005, Rob Riley suddenly was added as local counsel on a massive lawsuit against HealthSouth and its former CEO, Richard Scrushy. Riley represented the New Mexico State Investment Council, a relatively new player at the time in the HealthSouth litigation.

At the same time the civil case was unfolding, Scrushy was co-defendant in the Siegelman criminal case. And that, Stein reports, is how Rob Riley stood to gain financially.

Less than two months after those words were written, I was out of a job at a state institution. And Rob Riley, indeed, gained financially. As co-liaison counsel--with Doug Jones, of Birmingham's Haskell Slaughter firm--Riley took home a nice chunk of some $50 million in attorney fees awarded in the HealthSouth case.

Let's summarize: In spring 2008, I was writing in a supportive way about Bob Riley's chief political rival; I was reporting inconvenient truths about Riley-family crony Bill Swatek; and I probably was seen as a threat to Rob Riley's revenue stream.

Is it any wonder that UAB went to extraordinarily underhanded lengths to cheat me out of my job? Is it any wonder that I'm convinced someone connected to the Riley family made that happen?

That brings us back to Melissa George Bowman. Anyone with a sense of balance and fairness would have seen her as a victim, and they would have insisted that she not be penalized for reporting harassment. But the Riley crowd almost certainly includes any number of sociopaths--and such individuals lack any sense of balance or fairness.

Bowman's willingness to speak up about David Azbell made her a threat in Bob Riley's eyes. It meant she could not be trusted to keep her mouth shut about "family secrets." That meant she was a state employee who had to go--much the way I would later have to go at UAB.

Bill Britt's reporting on the Melissa George Bowman case speaks volumes about the Riley family's utter lack of ethics. It also says a lot about the paranoia that must be rampant among Riley insiders.


Unknown said...

The horror of sexual harassment.

A woman or a man.

Victims of some mental case and yet, generally the victim is shamed as though causing the mentally ill criminal to be a predator.

Anonymous said...

The Solution is simple.

But, first the Legal Profession has to recognize that judges at all levels and throughout the United States brazenly ignore The Rule of Law and Due Process.

A Formal, National System of Judicial Performance Evaluations (JPE) will shine a spotlight on the Rot of the Judiciary and provide a blueprint for a comprehensive solution found below.

It is absolutely essential to understand the difference between the Common Law and Natural Law to see what is going on.

Definitions Required for Further Reading:


Anonymous said...

Kudos to Bill Britt for excellent reporting. He is one conservative who is helping unmask thugs in the GOP--and we have a bunch of them.

Gerry with a G said...

Melissa George Bowman looks and sounds like she is a pretty, classy, intelligent young woman. It gives me chills to think of her, at a very tender age, having to deal with a creep like David Azbell.

Anonymous said...

This harassment must have been pretty bad for such a young woman to go to the governor's top dogs about it. Victims tend to think, "Well, I can put up with a little bit, and maybe it will get better." I bet Azbell was a real jackass toward this young woman.

Dog Day said...

Hats off to Ms. Bowman for speaking up on this. It took courage for her to do that.

Anonymous said...

The thought of a political thug like David Azbell making this young woman's life miserable . . . well, it makes me highly pissed. The guy deserves to have his ass kicked.

Spasmoda said...

LS, they cheated Ms. George Bowman out of her job in 2003. They cheated you out of your job in 2008. And I believe they cheated Robby Scott Hill out of his state job somewhere in between. I see a pattern here.

Anonymous said...

Bill Britt did excellent work to break this. And LS adds a ton of important detail. Many thanks to a couple of real journalists in Alabama.

Barb said...

Riley didn't take office until Jan. 2003, and this settlement agreement was reached in Dec. 2003. Sounds like that creep-ass Azbell(a cross between a creep and a jackass) went to work on this young woman right off the bat. Didn't take the harasser long to pick out his victim.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it looks like journalism in Alabama with the LEGAL SCHNAUZER dogging 'em, well looks like the vermin and roaches too, haven't a chance. Congrats and wow, wow, wow, how thankful for you.

Anonymous said...

What does it say about Dax Swatek that he partners with a guy like David Azbell? More importantly, what does it say about Mike Hubbard?

Anonymous said...

I wonder how Bob Riley would feel if someone treated one of his precious daughters this way.

Molli said...

Excellent reporting. Can't we force the state to produce the missing documents? Any doubt Riley had them destroyed? This douche just continues to be paid well by the State. Shows the character of Riley and Hubbard.

Legal Schnauzer posted this video in March but it seems appropriate to post it again. Really shows Azbell for the narcissistic sleaze he truly is.

Anonymous said...

By speaking up, this young woman proved that she was an honest person, with a spine and a sense of values. No wonder Bob Riley didn't want her around.

Anonymous said...

I smell Rob Riley's fingerprints on this. I would bet the ranch he was consulted on it.

legalschnauzer said...


Those records are state property, so yes, they should be available through an open records request. Whether they actually would be turned over, given our state's political climate, is another question.

For that matter, an open records request should produce all sorts of docs about Riley--his ties to Choctaws, his crusade against non-Indian gaming, his unlawful contacts with the AL Supreme Court . . . and on and on.

Anonymous said...

LS, I think the comparison between your experience at UAB and Ms. George Bowman's experience in the governor's office are very interesting--especially the fact that she apparently went to work in the press office under the Siegelman administration. She worked under Siegelman, you reported honestly and accurately about the Siegelman case . . . you both were forced out of your state jobs under the Riley regime. I don't think that's an accident.

Anonymous said...

Here is a bet I would make: If Ms. George had not accepted this deal, someone in her family would have found him or herself out of a job.

legalschnauzer said...

Here is information about the Alabama Public Records Law, a subject that was raised in a couple of comments above:

Anonymous said...

“Deep inside me there’s a serial killer lurking somewhere,” the unnamed attorney told Dutton. “But I keep him amused with cocaine, Formula One, booty calls, and coruscating cross-examination.”

In his book The Wisdom of Psychopaths, Kevin Dutton argues that America’s corporate giants have more in common with the likes of Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy than we realise.But nothing illustrates that point more than a quote from a successful young British attorney Dutton interviewed.

Anonymous said...

Toby Roth is a coward and a POS. Why would he not answer questions from Bill Britt? Question No. 1: "Toby, why did you and Bob Riley insist on including a provision in the settlement agreement that Ms. George leave her job?"

Anonymous said...

Irony being that the sexual harassment perp is now employed in the office of Mr. Family Values Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. The Speaker has doubled the amount spent in his office in relation to the previous Democratic Speaker. The Montgomery Advertiser ran a series of articles accusing the Democratic Speaker of wasteful spending. The Advertisers lips are now silent.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 4:30

Their lips are silent because they're wrapped around Mike Hubbard's Little Napoleon.

Anonymous said...

AS MY GRANNY WOULD SAY "You'd have to hog tie me down" to get me to even speak to that ugly ASSBELL (Azbell) That is one ugly man and he gives me the creeps. Man that thing is ugly.

Maybe this is how he gets his rocks off by harrassing women because SURELY no woman in their right mind would have normal sexual relations with him unless it was Helen Keller reincarnated!

Anonymous said...

I love blog LS.

Americans aren't dumb, the highest level of intelligence is humor.

Your blog proves really how S.M.A.R.T. We The People ARE w/o all the damn meters.

The name a$$bell rings a gong. Gone wrong, all the ding dongs like to swing along in the swan song. Going down south ships of fools, not at all kool drinking aides and slinging sleezy oozing yucks who'd ever! GRANNY concur!


Anonymous said...

I suspect that you and Dutton hit the nail right on the head. Many of these lawyers and judges commit unethical behaviors and/or crimes against citizens and don't lose a wink of sleep. By definition these are sociopaths...albeit wearing suits.

Anonymous said...

Barry Soetero is a Psychopath and so was, is, George W. Bush Jr. "W".

Clintons are all three? Psychopaths, for certain the Father Mother team were-are.

There is not a "POTUS" or a "FLOTUS" for that matter [President of the U.S. and First Lady], that have not been corporate shill psychopaths.

What's to lose? Billions of off shore "wealth".

Tough to let go and be a common garden variety All American Hero, or just person-citizen.

That was the law, though, and it is still good. The rest of earth had to kick our corruption to the curb so the earth can begin to breathe again.

jeffrey spruill said...

This is the mindset of fiscally responsible Republicans making sure tax dollars are carefully spent:

Cheney to Treasury: "Deficits don't matter"

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill was told "deficits don't matter" when he warned of a looming fiscal crisis.


Thus the Riley cabal allowing the citzens of Alabama to pick up the tab for a perverts transgressions.

Robby Scott Hill said...

Their civilization is at an end. The Righteous Servant of God will see to that. Allah will raise up one of the Workers that was abused by the neo-Confederates. Every non-White baby born along with every convert to Islam becomes part of the new Moorish America. As Salaam Alaikum my Brothers & Sisters.

Unknown said...

Wa alaikum assalaam Robby. The Prophet Isa, PBUH, was without question a Muslim. He greeted His Muslim Brothers & Sisters in the Muslim tradition at least four times: Luke 24:36, John 20:19, John 20:21, and John 20:26 before Muhammad, PBUH, was given the Buraq by the Angel Gabriel so he could fly to meet all the Prophets, Peace Be Upon Them All, as he ascended. The Righteous Servant was with them all from the Beginning. He was with your ancestors in the Abbasid Caliphate. He is with you now. There is no God but Allah, PBUH, & He is Great.

Anonymous said...

Barry, this is me speaking to you, you know, GOD. First, the real truth is Jesus, my son, was a shape shifter and that is why Judas Goat had to kiss him, he had shape shifted and the Romans knew not who he was.

... The translation from the original Coptic has been revealed for the first time in a new book:

Pseudo-Cyril of Jerusalem on the Life and the Passion of Christ, BY, Roelof van den Broek, emeritus professor of the History of Christianity at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

and please, Mr. Soetero, do not forget your manners you half breed SOB!

A Muslim eh. Well, I guess the books of old, many now have been of course written, rewritten and then revisionist too, history is always sold to the masses by the mass murderers that generally take all the spoils from wars.


... These Blackz brought with them books upon books libraries with 100 thousand documents in it.

BlacMuslim Zchalaz who introduced into the system Arabic numbers which included the zero. They were masters of astronomy, mathematics, medicine, chemistry, and physics. They possessed the vigorous knowledge of the classics. The Europeans could not count beyond the Roman numeral until BlacPeople brought the knowledge of the zero. The zero is how we are able to travel in outer space. BlacCulture was also the producer of the concave lines and telescope. One of the favorite pass time of the Ancient Black Culture, according to Dr. Barashango was responsible for restoring civilization. By the year 1000 the Europeans time were reduced to a condition close to barbarism. Yet at that time the Moors had a splendid civilization.

XIV. Bibliographies:

African American Jubilee Edition, Holy Bible , Contemporary English Version

Africa and the Discovery of America. by Author: Leo Wiener ... ISBN: 1881316025 Israel == Other Asian Country Australasia == ==Australia ==New Zealand Africa ...

Ali, Noble Drew, “The Prophet” by NOBLE DREW ALI,

Barashango, Dr. Ishakamusa African People & European Holidays: A Mental Genocide ISBN:1930097514

Barashango, Dr. Ishakamusa “God, the Bible, and the Black Man's Destiny, Page 24.

Barashango, Dr. Ishakamusa in his audio cassette tape entitled, “The Eternal people”1987

Bradley, Michael The Ice Man Inheritance, Michael Bradley, ISBN 1879831007, Kayode Publications, African American/ Anthropology

Cross, Walter, 216RE THE EVOLUTION OF BLACOLOGICAL LINGUISTICS AND TERMINOLOGY, BLACOLOICAL EVOLUTIONARY LEXICON, By Blacologist: Profesa Wulta Zamani Xrozz, Blacology Research And Development Institute Inc, Publishing Company. 7611 Mountain View Way, Landover, Maryland 20785, CULTURALSCIENCE@CS.COM, BLACOLOGY.COM, 5-15-216re © (COPYRIGHT), BRDI: 09131997-7, (Paperback First Printing May 15, 2005 ©

Anonymous said...

Talk about lack of justice. Gives Alabama justice a run for its money.Saw this reported on local TV news last night. If Grand Isle is a tourist destination someone needs to give it a proper Yelp rating! Don't vacation here unless you want to be raped and beaten with no recourse. Oh, don't buy property here either if you plan to come just on weekends.

Former Grand Isle Police Chief Roscoe Bessonhe wouldn't be surprised if the bias against outsiders played a role in the attack, and that the problem is as old as the island itself.

“A lot of people come here to fish, and if you're at the wrong place at the wrong time, things happen,” Besson said.

Anonymous said...

Roger do you ever feel that some of your reader's posts are designed to undermine your blog's credibility?

legalschnauzer said...

I assume you mean the readers' comments? (I write the posts.) No, I don't think so. I moderate comments, and I try to take an open-minded approach, letting most things through, as long as they are thoughtful, respectful, and fairly coherent. Some things get a little off topic, and some might come close to "conspiracy theory." But that's OK by me, within reason; I have some conspiracy theories of my own. Comments at many Web sites--including mainstream sites like NY Times and WaPo--tend to run the gamut, and I don't think that affects their credibility one way or another. The comments we get at LS, I believe, tend to come from folks who care about what is going on in our country, especially in terms of justice and politics. I like that sort of passion, even if it sometimes veers off the beaten path. To me, the comment section is kind of like a jam session at the end of a song; I try to let it be free flowing, without too much interference from me, if I can help it.

jefffrey spruill said...

Mr. Schnauzer:

Are you telling us that you picked up "conspiracy theories of your own" after being COMPLETELY immersed in the American justice system.

I don't see how that's possible KNOWING the courts are designed to be the final arbiter of cases based on objectivity(discovery).

Anonymous said...

Roger, do you feel sometimes like your comment bloggers are manipulating your jam sessions?

It's always so refreshing when a very important link or possible awakening to deep thinking, that rocks the roll into a real true jitterbug happening also, draws a troll to say control your words, thoughts and certain too, those that have other possible ideas than the trolls.

Anonymous said...

In reading about such as, sexual harassment, we have to ask ourselves how did we become such an organized mass of worshipers of our own reflections in the mirror and then, those who reflect our inner desire to be worshiped by the world masses.

The Chinese noticed, once the book The Wizard of OZ was written, that the human tendency to be hypnotized by our own self and then by others' was-is a very true reality. There was a book review about the Wizard of Oz, in the very prominent English Literary Publication.

"The King" was supposedly the first "Idol" we in the USA were programmed to worship.

That is, after being very well prepared by the TV, movies, and any way the images could get our pituitary glands to synapse no critical thinking. Just worship the images and of course the agenda of only worshiping the images and consuming as non critical thinking citizens.

Do not mistake the message here.

I love rock and roll. I love the Big Bands and I danced in Alaska, 1950s and 1960s early, whatever fast and furious shaking and moving and shucking and jiving was being experienced.

Danced in KCMO, James Brown, only two white kids - my friend and I, we were 16, and it was 1965.

PUSHERS, the push to be nothing but, movers and shakers and money makers has not gotten America into a true culture of a higher classical honor.

Image America producing a Mozart, or James Joyce.

First step is in recovering from the worship of our own reflection when it looks like the degradation of sexual harassment that has been around forever. There has to be a way in which the transparency of worship becomes the honor of law, too.

Your blog, LS, is the complexity of how journalism is. You're a genius and America is very blessed with your "image" to follow a true leader. You can always communicate because you are always thinking critically.

Thank you, enjoy The King lives story: our American southern boy who reminded the world of how true magic works.

Long live the American Dream to be simply free to cultivate our genuine talents-gifts and culture our spirits.

Anonymous said...

LS, dear friends,

Here is your "HISTORY" of how the south was "cultured," too be what it is. The "Crackers" there have been in the business of sub-human behavior for a long long time:

... When Rabbi David Einhorn criticized slavery as an evil institution, he had to flee to Philadelphia with his family in order to escape mob violence.[41] The Jewish voice in defense of slavery certainly was too strong.

When Daniel Webster argued against slavery, it was Judah P. Benjamin, a Senator from Louisiana, who defended it.[42]

For those reasons, many blacks in the South had negative perceptions of Jews, and one journalist declared in 1946 that many blacks in the South had a “grim satisfaction from the Nazi persecution of the Jews.

They contend that their local Jews have been indistinguishable from the ‘crackers’ in their attitude toward Negroes.”[43]

And anti-Jewish resistance became a serious issue during the Civil War era. Many Jews were singled out as “extortionists, counterfeiters, blockade-runners.”[44] In Richmond, Virginia, a historian by the name of J.B. Jones, who had made close Jewish friends, wrote that “illicit trade has depleted the country and placed us at the feet of Jew extortioners.”[45]

A magazine named Southern Punch noted, “Who are our opponents at the present time?…The dirty greasy Jew peddler [sic] who might be seen, with a pack on his back, a year or two since, bowing and cringing even to the Negro servants, now struts by with the air of a millionaire.”

The Richmond Examiner pronounced similar charges, saying in part that “Every auction room is packed with greasy Jews…”[46]

The Examiner retracted from their statement because they made no distinction between native Jews and immigrant Jews, but the anti-Jewish spirit was still there.

In 1862, as the Union Army was closing in, “rumors circulated that traders were passing counterfeit money. Soon the culprits were deemed to be the three resident Jewish families, as well as occasional itinerant Jewish traders. A mob of irate citizens then passed a ‘resolution’ giving the local Jews ten days’ notice of expulsion.”[47]

In Orygone, modern time, 1980s, the Black Affairs Commissioner for the State before he was the Commissioner, was told by a Jewish "Owner" of the Kaiser Permanente "Hospital" where he was hired in a top level position there, that he was an "Uppity Nigger". I'm afraid the south was an etched in stone unfortunate Biblical date stamp via the "Israeli FRAUD", clearly.

Deal with the tap root rot and the planting there can begin again in the healthy roots rather than the cancerous infected fungal out of control diseased.

xo/Porn Pom