Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (photo) reportedly has agreed to return $7.9 million his office received as former Governor Bob Riley's term was winding down.
Riley, on the Friday before his term ended in January, transferred the money from the state's BP oil-spill account. Current Governor Robert Bentley has asked for the funds to be returned, according to a report today from Dothan-based rickeystokesnews.com. Rebekah Caldwell Mason, Bentley's communications director, says Strange has agreed to return the funds.
It all reminds us of a classic John Fogerty song, one Alabamians need to learn and remember. More on that in a minute.
Dave Stewart, who was Riley's chief of staff, reportedly engineered the suspicious transfer. Stewart has joined Bradley Arant, the Birmingham law firm that received millions in taxpayer dollars during the Riley era. Stewart has been unavailable for comment about the $7.9 million deal with Luther Strange, who is a former partner at Bradley Arant.
What were Riley and Strange trying to pull, with Stewart's help? Was Sonny Reagan, Riley's former legal adviser who now works for Strange, involved? Was this part of a reported plan for Riley to support Strange for governor in 2014 in exchange for the AG "protecting" Riley's children (Rob Riley and Minda Riley Campbell) and steering state dollars their way?
The answer to those questions remain unclear, but the deal clearly is emitting a foul odor. Reports Dana Beyerle for The Gadsen Times:
The $7.9 million in unrestricted funds that Riley transferred from the state's BP oil spill account was earmarked for litigation relating to the oil spill and to anti-gambling efforts, according to a Legislative Fiscal Office memo.
"I know they transferred money for legal expenses," Riley said Tuesday in a telephone interview.
He said details were handled by his former chief of staff, who could not be immediately reached for comment.
The deal immediately produced howls of protest from several quarters. Alan Collins, of myfoxal.com, reported that a memo from the Legislative Fiscal Office confirmed the deal:
"According to the Office of Attorney General, it plans to spend those funds in FY 2011 and FY 2012 on salary, benefits, and professional services expenses incurred for litigation related to the oil spill and gambling," the memo said.
The transfer occurred three days before Riley left office.