Legal expenses for the AG's office have risen from $0 in Fiscal Year 2008 to more than $270,000 in FY 2013, which ends September 30. Most of that spending has gone to outside lawyers, according to a report by Mary Sell, Montgomery Bureau chief for The Decatur Daily.
No one has benefited more from Strange's crusade against gambling than Bradley Arant. From Mary Sell's report:
Alabama’s attorney general has paid private attorneys about $360,000 in the past two years to help in his fight against electronic bingo and illegal gambling in the state.
It’s one of several cases for which the office has solicited help on the state’s behalf.
The amount the attorney general’s office has spent on outside legal services has risen in recent years, from $0 in fiscal 2008 to about $70,000 in 2009 and to about $271,000 this fiscal year, according to www.open.alabama.gov, a website run by the state comptroller’s office.
The expenses do not include those involving in-house attorneys.
Bradley Arant has a history of cashing in on the state's crusade against non-Indian gaming. Multiple press reports show that the firm sucked up more than $10 million in taxpayer dollars during the last two years of former Governor Bob Riley's administration, when gambling issues took center stage. Riley's son-in-law, Rob Campbell, is a shareholder at Bradley Arant, and Luther Strange is a long-time Riley ally.
Mary Sell provides more details on Bradley Arant's tendency to feed at the public trough during Republican administrations that supposedly are morally opposed to gambling:
These are not the first gambling-related fees Bradley, Arant, Boult, Cummings has had with the state.
In 2010, The Associated Press reported then-Gov. Bob Riley’s administration paid the firm $536,115 to assist the Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling. The firm also worked for King when he served as attorney general.
The firm declined last week to discuss its contracts with the state.
Imagine that . . . Bradley Arant is happy to take public money, but it declines to discuss its haul in a public forum. We've had experience with that here at Legal Schnauzer. We have sought interviews with multiple Bradley Arant lawyers about Campus Crest Communities CEO Ted Rollins and his connections to child abuse, perjury, and other unethical acts related to the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case in Shelby County. Bradley Arant is Rollins' chief corporate law firm and played a key role in preparing his company's Wall Street IPO, but the firm has steadfastly refused to respond to our interview requests.
One member of Luther Strange's staff would discuss the AG's private-lawyer expenditures with The Decatur Daily, and that was Chief Deputy Attorney General Kevin Turner. He holds a position that was intended for Jessica Medeiros Garrison, who managed Strange's 2010 campaign and has carried on a long-running affair with the AG.
Before joining Strange's staff, Turner worked at . . . Bradley Arant. From Mary Sell's report:
The attorney general’s office contends the numbers are misleading because they include fees for expert witnesses and money paid to other states during multi-state litigation. But much of that money in recent years has gone to attorneys working on cases such as the ongoing gambling litigation, defending the state’s redistricting plans, deferred compensation plans and defending the office from lawsuits filed by former employees, according to documents obtained by The Decatur Daily.
“In general, when we hire outside law firms, there are two possible reasons: One, for expertise and specialized skills, or there is a workload issue where we don’t have the manpower in the office to dedicate sufficient hours to that particular case,” said Kevin Turner, chief deputy attorney general. Turner sat down with the newspaper last week to discuss the expenditures.
Sell noted the irony of a former Bradley Arant lawyer serving as the AG's spokesperson on issues involving payments to Bradley Arant:
Turner explained when it comes to contracts with private attorneys, the attorney general has the decision-making power.
“There is no formal bid requirement on those contracts, so we determine who we think is best to handle the particular subject matter, and then the governor’s office approves the rate which they are paid,” Turner said. He’s a former associate at Bradley, Arant, Boult, Cummings, but said he has no interest in the firm now.
“Basically, we pick the lawyer and the governor’s office sets the rate,” he said.
Is Luther Strange proving to be a responsible steward of public dollars? At least one state official answers with a resounding no:
Some think expenses like the more than $364,000 for private attorneys to fight gambling in the state are unnecessary.
“This is a waste of taxpayer money,” Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, said. “If the attorney general feels strongly about it, he should be handling the case himself, with staff attorneys that taxpayers are already paying for.”
Bedford, an attorney, said after years of legal fights and lost jobs, there still are electronic bingo casinos operating in the state. He said he recently saw several in Greene County.
“So, what’s the $300,000 going for?” said Bedford, who previously sponsored legislation to tax, expand and regulate electronic bingo casinos. It did not pass.