Monday, March 5, 2018

With indicted Balch Bingham partner apparently still on payroll, and Luther Strange checking want ads, B'ham Superfund probe seems to be stuck in neutral

Luther Strange
(From Associated Press)
An attorney indicted in the North Birmingham Superfund scandal appears to still be on the payroll at a major downtown law firm, according to the Web site Meanwhile, former U.S. Senator Luther Strange -- reportedly a central figure in the scandal -- is looking for a new gig in Washington, D.C.

A reasonable person might figure that Strange, Balch Bingham partner Joel Gilbert and others connected to the Superfund scam would be in a state of high anxiety. But that doesn't seem to be the case. Makes you wonder if Trump appointee, Jay Town (U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama), is pushing the case forward in a serious manner. Perhaps he has let it be known that white, conservative corporate and legal types will be provided a soft landing -- with the one black guy involved, former State Rep. Oliver Robinson, absorbing most of the punishment.

If Gilbert is quaking in his boots, he has a funny way of showing it. From

Infuriating other attorneys at the once prestigious firm, FEC filings show that Joel I. Gilbert, the indicted Balch Bingham partner who allegedly funneled $360,000 in bribes to disgraced former Alabama State Representative Oliver Robinson, is still on the payroll at Balch Bingham as of December 30, 2017.

After being indicted on September 28, 2017, Gilbert donated, what appears to be four automatic payroll withdrawals, on October 16, 2017, November 16, 2017, December 22, 2017, and December 30, 2017, to Balch Bingham’s federal political action committee. The contributions total $388.42.

When Gilbert and Balch partner Steve McKinney were indicted in September, Balch issued a public statement saying, “…the charges allege actions that, if proven to be true, are contrary to the ethical values that guide our firm’s attorneys and staff. We take these issues very seriously. Both Mr. Gilbert and Mr. McKinney are on an indefinite leave of absence.”

If Balch really took these issues seriously, you might expect indicted partners to be fired, pronto. Instead, it seems they are on paid administrative leave. The firm doesn't seem to care much about ethics -- or appearances. From banbalch:

Why would any client of Balch want to be subsidizing these alleged bribery conspirators who allegedly suppressed African-Americans from having their toxic and contaminated property tested by the EPA?

While some observers believe that Balch could be preventing Gilbert from cooperating with federal prosecutors by keeping him on the payroll, others believe this magnifies the alleged hypocritical, unethical, and unscrupulous two-sided pattern of behavior at Balch.

As for Luther Strange, reports have him present when State Rep. John Roger was offered a bribe in the Superfund case. But if Strange is shivering with fright, he's not letting it keep him from angling for various jobs in Washington, D.C. From a report at Politico:

Voters sent Luther Strange back to Alabama last year, but the former senator is quietly plotting a return to Washington.

Strange, who had been appointed to the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions but was defeated by Roy Moore in the Republican primary in September, has been on the hunt for a job in Washington over the past few weeks, according to three people familiar with his plans.

He’s been sounding out professional contacts and weighing whether he can get a job at a federal agency or set up his own consulting shop. Those close to him say he’s increasingly likely to land at a law firm, where he’ll split his time between Alabama and D.C.

Strange has been interviewing with several firms in Washington over the past couple of weeks, including Venable, according to two people familiar with the issue.

While he is not expected to land a job in the administration in the near future, some White House aides have nonetheless been eyeing him for a position, believing that, as a former senator and former Alabama attorney general, he’d have little difficulty getting confirmed.

It would figure that a half-way competent and tough-minded prosecutor would instill at least a little fear in those he has indicted, or should be investigating. If that's the case, Jay Town seems to be failing big time.

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