Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The photos that came to define a major Deep South scandal turned out to be an inside job, the product of rampant dysfunction at sprawling Southern Company


Cocktail hour: Jay Town and Mark Crosswhite

Photographs of former U.S. attorney Jay Town and former Alabama Power CEO Mark Crosswhite provided the defining images of the North Birmingham bribery scandal. Now we learn, thanks to a report from that the effort to create the photos originated with a most unexpected source. K.B. Forbes -- publisher of the Ban Balch blog and CEO of its parent organization, the CDLU public charity and advocacy group -- reports that the photos were the result of what might be called an "inside job." And it involves the country's second-largest utility company.

Under the headline "Bombshell: Southern Company Surveillance Effort of U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town Exposed," Forbes writes:


The jaw-dropping photos we obtained and published in 2020 of then-U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Jay E. Town chugging cocktails with then-Chairman and CEO of Alabama Power Mark A. Crosswhite were allegedly paid for by Southern Company in a deep, covert surveillance effort of the U.S. Attorney’s office.

According to a high-level source in Atlanta, Southern Company allegedly paid Matrix, LLC to spearhead a covert surveillance effort of U.S. Department of Justice officials and prosecutors in Birmingham.

The release of the photos was done intentionally to send a message to Town: Southern Company owns your ass.

Crosswhite allegedly ordered the surveillance program as a member of Southern Company’s Management Council.

Since Alabama Power was never prosecuted or ordered to testify in the North Birmingham Bribery Trial because of apparent corruption and a secret “unmentionable” deal, Southern Company allegedly wanted to keep Town from ever expanding the probe in the future.

Did the photos produce fallout? Oh yes, Forbes reports, on many levels and in many places:

The photos eventually led to Town’s abrupt resignation, and his political career was left in shambles.

While Crosswhite reportedly was  furious that we published the photos and ordered an all-out, unwarranted attack against us, the CDLU, the Newsome Family, and the Forbes Family, sources claim that Joe Perkins, the founder of Matrix LLC, allegedly ordered the release to benefit and justify his annual multi-million-dollar secret contracts with Southern Company subsidiaries.

The photos eventually led to the disgraceful resignations of both Town and Crosswhite.

It turns out that surveillance, spying, and the like were part of the warped corporate culture at Atlanta-based Southern Company, the nation's second-largest utility. Writes Forbes:

In June, Southern Company admitted to The Wall Street Journal of paying for and conducting surveillance efforts. Last year, numerous news reports outlined the surveillance of journalists in Florida allegedly conducted by Matrix goons.

But the latest surveillance allegations are beyond egregious. They are criminal, worse than blackmail.

Southern Company set up a meeting with Town, and then their paid stooges allegedly took compromising photos of Town drinking cocktails with Crosswhite.

When the surveillance scandal broke last year, Perkins allegedly barked at Crosswhite, “Pack your bags!”

How could a once-reputable company fall into such a state of dysfunction? The answer to that question is not entirely clear -- yet. But if you work at Southern Company, it sounds like watching your back would be a good idea. Writes Forbes:

Now, today, this very moment, Perkins, Matrix, Balch & Bingham, and Mark White all should be told to “pack their bags.”

The egregious and criminal era of dirty deeds, dishonorable surveillance, and deplorable misconduct must come to an end.

Southern Company can no longer tolerate these shenanigans.

The farce of not knowing who authorized the surveillance, or for what purpose,  does not absolve the senior management or Board of Directors at Southern Company.

No comments: