Alabama Power's desire to control the Black-owned media in Birmingham might be getting Mayor Randall Woodfin into hot water, according to a report at banbalch.com. How could that happen? It comes down to a set of numbers that raise troubling questions, writes K.B. Forbes, CEO of the CDLU public charity and advocacy group that oversees the Ban Balch blog.
The issue came to light with reports on Jan. 19 about Alabama Power's connections to the Black-owned Birmingham Times. Forbes picks up the story from there, in a post titled "Magician Woodfin Turns $1.8 Million into a Rabbit; Disarray as Investment Firm Cannot “Confirm or Deny” Payment."
During the height of the pandemic, as many of us were locked inside our homes, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin spent $1.14 million on August 20, 2020, to pay a batch of invoices supposedly due to the Birmingham Times Media Group for “legal advertising.”
Although we could not confirm if the money ever arrived to the Birmingham Times, we have learned from independent sources that the money never, ever went to the news media group and was deposited instead into the coffers of JJ Lewis Investments LLC.
We called JJ Lewis Investments directly, and they could not “confirm or deny” if the money was received on August 20, 2020.
What is going on? Forbes does his best to explain:
With the sound of disarray in her voice, Amanda Cantrell told us she is reviewing everything and that she would be in touch with us, the CDLU, in the near future.
The disarray and disorder are so grave that even the website for the JJ Lewis Investments firm is “expired.”
The total spent by Woodfin on legal advertising totals $1.8 million.
But the initial payment of $1.14 million is raising deep questions.
Here are some of those questions -- and the sounds of disarray do not help answer them:
Who cut the check or was it wired? Who was it made payable to? Who authorized the voucher and payment? Who deposited the check? What bank signed off on such a large deposit?
Both the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and the FBI have been briefed on what appears to be blatant embezzlement and corruption.
We’ve also been in touch with officials on the Birmingham City Council.
As we wrote last month, a search of the Birmingham Times website (as of December 28, 2022) reveals that no classified legal advertisements have appeared on the newspaper’s website since January 12, 2017.
The Birmingham Times was acquired from the original owners by a not-for-profit with funds from Alabama Power, the embattled utility.