Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Donald Watkins' investigative reporting shines light on the back-alley shenanigans that helped keep Alabama Power unmentioned at the North Birmingham trial

Jay Town and Mark Crosswhite at cocktail hour

Anyone who doubts Alabama Power CEO Mark Crosswhite knew bribes would be used to help deal with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clean-up problem in North Birmingham, can put those doubts to rest, thanks to the investigative journalism of longtime Alabama attorney Donald Watkins.

Anyone who doubts Jay Town, the former Trump-appointed U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and an ally of U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), looked the other way to ensure Alabama Power and its executives would not become ensnared in the North Birmingham Superfund Trial, can put those doubts at ease.

Those are two take-home points from a post yesterday at banbalch.com, which operates under the auspices of the CDLU public charity and advocacy group. Under the headline "Kingpins of Obstruction! Crosswhite Demanded Creation of AJE while Town Provided Unfettered Protection", Publisher and CEO K.B. Forbes writes:

Mark A. Crosswhite, the disgraced ex-Chairman and CEO of Alabama Power who was ousted in November, demanded the creation of the money laundering entity called the Alliance for Jobs and the Economy (AJE) in the the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal, according to an explosive report published yesterday on DonaldWatkins.com.

The report includes an email exchange between Matthew W. Bowden, the former Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Alabama Power and Steven G. McKinney, the former Balch & Bingham partner who was indicted and later dismissed before closing arguments during the North Birmingham Bribery Trial.

DonaldWatkins.com writes:

[AJE] was an Alabama Power Company-inspired creation.

McKinney explained to Bowden that AJE was the entity that former Alabama Power CEO Mark Crosswhite “preferred” to deal with the company’s North Birmingham Superfund clean-up problem in 2015.

In his March 18, 2015, email, McKinney told Bowden that AJE is the “special purpose 501-c-6 entity Mark [Crosswhite] preferred over having BBA [Birmingham Business Alliance] respond to EPA’s expanded Superfund theories and GASP’s Toxic City campaign. The Alliance for Jobs and the Economy.”

The AJE was set up to launder more than $360,000 in bribes to former State Representative Oliver Robinson who was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison for his corrupt acts.

Watkins further explains:

In other words, bribing Oliver Robinson, who is black and who was willing to sell out the black residents of North Birmingham, was Alabama Power's preferred solution for defeating an initiative by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to designate this black neighborhood as a Superfund clean-up site.

The Superfund designation would have forced the industrial polluters who poisoned the air, ground, and water in this poor black neighborhood to clean it up at their corporate expense. The polluters were longtime networking partners and political allies of Alabama Power Company.

As for Jay Town, he apparently was happy to keep Alabama Power and its executives out of the North Birmingham mess at trial. How was he rewarded for that? The answer remains under wraps, for now. But Forbes reports:

We, the CDLU, have learned that the [McKinney-Bowden] email exchange, among thousands of documents, was provided to the U.S. Department of Justice under subpoena during the criminal investigation of North Birmingham but disgraced ex-U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town allegedly buried it, ignored it.

Town, who was photographed slamming back cocktails with Crosswhite at the Moon Shine Lounge apparently at the height of the criminal case, allegedly consented to a secret deal to keep Alabama Power “unmentionable” during the North Birmingham Bribery Trial.

Mark White, a white-collar criminal attorney and Crosswhite’s most-trusted advisor, was at the trial every day, according to courthouse observers. Others allege that any mention of Alabama Power had to be cleared by White.

Now with this new explosive report, at a minimum, Crosswhite should have been called as a witness at the North Birmingham Bribery Trial.

Instead, Crosswhite appears to have been protected by Town.

The behavior of Crosswhite and Town raises a batch of intriguing questions, Forbes reports:

We have been consistently told since October of 2021 that Crosswhite and Alabama Power are under investigation for alleged criminal obstruction of justice.

In February’s earnings call, the Chairman and CEO of Southern Company, Tom Fanning, stated that Crosswhite resigned because “he had some issues he wanted to deal with.”

What are these issues?

A potential criminal indictment? Obstruction of justice? Racketeering?

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