Political contributions from Drummond Company to Luther Strange were in exchange for his opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) making North Birmingham a Superfund site, the company's former director of government affairs says in discovery filed yesterday in his $75-million fraud lawsuit against Drummond and the Balch Bingham law firm. (The full discovery is embedded at the end of this post.) States David Roberson:
"As head of government affairs at Drummond, I never made or recommended any campaign contributions on behalf of the company that were a bribe and/or in any way illegal. The political contributions to Luther Strange were in exchange for him to sign letters as the state attorney general opposing North Birmingham being made a Superfund site. I never met with Luther Strange in connection with this contribution and was not made aware of it until after the fact."
Roberson alleges in his lawsuit that Drummond General Counsel Blake Andrews helped set him up as a "fall guy," by encouraging him to take actions that led to his conviction in a federal bribery trial. Roberson describes in the discovery how that happened:
The first part of February 2015, Blake Andrews came into my office and asked if we could talk. I told him "sure" and invited him to sit down. He had a piece of paper in his hand. He proceeded to tell me he was now getting three invoices a month from Balch Bingham, including a legal bill, a consultant-reimbursement bill, and now another consultant-reimbursement invoice for the Oliver Robinson Foundation (ORF). He stated that this was getting "confusing" for him to manage three invoices from the same firm, and he had come to ask if I would mind handling the ORF invoice, to initial and forward on to Mike Tracy. I told him if it was a problem for him, I would be glad to help out.
He handed me the first ORF invoice he had just received, which was addressed to Blake Andrews, in the amount of $14,000 to cover two months of the contract. Blake had drawn a line through his name and written 'Should be David Roberson" out to the side of his name.
My part of processing the invoice was to make sure that was what was due, initial the invoice, and take it to Mike Tracy or his assistant Carolyn Chambers. Mike Tracy had to initial every invoice in order for it to be paid. At a point after dropping off the invoice I sat down and explained to Mike why I was initialing the invoice instead of Blake and his "confusion" issue. Mike was okay with me handling the invoices.
During my meeting with Blake, there was no one else in my office.
At some point the day Blake and I spoke, I called Joel Gilbert at Balch Bingham to explain my conversation with Blake and asked him to forward future ORF invoices to me. He said Blake had already contacted him and asked him to make the change.
How did Roberson come to realize the payments to the Robinson Foundation were illegal or of questionable legality?
At trial, it became obvious to me that I was being used by Blake Andrews to be the fall guy for Drummond reimbursing the illegal payments made by Balch Bingham to the Oliver Robinson Foundation. That played the pivotal role in what convicted me. Looking back on things, the only reason for Blake to ask me to process only those invoices was that he knew what was going on was illegal.
Who at Drummond, besides Andrews, knew Balch's actions were illegal? States Roberson:
Originally only Blake Andrews knew that what Balch Bingham was doing could have been illegal and therefore tried to distance himself by having me process the invoices for reimbursements for payments to the Oliver Robinson Foundation. I also think that at some point he informed others at Drummond of his belief, but they did not share the fact that the payment into the ORF was illegal with me. This would include Mike Tracy and Bruce Webster, who is the Drummond Board legal counsel.
How did Roberson's entanglement in the scandal affect him?
Damages for what Drummond has done to me are enormous. Monetary wise, they cost me a beautiful home in Birmingham that we had to sell well below what we had invested in it due to the financial situation we found ourselves in after being told on several occasions by Mike Tracy, in person and also by phone when Anna was with me, not to worry because Drummond would take care of us through the appeals process. We had to sell almost everything in the house as well. Drummond also cost me my reputation, which over my 42-year career had been spotless. This has damaged my health, including blood-pressure problems and inability to sleep, even with medication. Stress and anxiety has been almost unbearable, and my stress memory loss continues to worsen. Insurance for my wife and son has been hard to pay on a limited income when they both have medical issues that require expensive medications, a lot of which their present insurance will not cover. We also were forced to sell our home in Florida. I am no longer employable in my specialty since I am a convicted felon.