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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Lawmakers approve $100,000 to help King's office with federal subpoena

Legislators approved a contract of up to $100,000 on Thursday that will allow an outside law firm to help the office of Attorney General Troy King respond to a subpoena from a federal grand jury.
King's office requested a $40,000 contract with the Birmingham firm of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LP last month. He sought an increase of $60,000 this month.
Charla Doucet, chief of the administrative services division in the office of the attorney general, said she received the first invoice and it was for more than $40,000.
Chris Bence, chief of staff for King, said there appears to be little action in the case in the last two months, but said he and a handful of other employees were called before the grand jury.
"Evidently they finished up for at least the personnel in this office a couple of months ago," he said. "I am not aware of anybody else in the office who has been called."
Bence said, to his knowledge, King has not appeared before the grand jury.
The legislative contract review committee also approved a legal contract of up to $200,000 for an attorney to defend the governor and the state in a lawsuit over the state's Prepaid Affordable College Tuition Program; and an additional $200,000 for Bradley Arant to advise the governor and his task force on gambling. The panel previously approved $250,000 for Bradley Arant to advise the task force.
The contract for the attorney general's office that legislators approved on Thursday, which will be funded completely by state money, will be for $195 an hour up to $100,000 between July 3 and Dec. 31 of this year.
State Rep. Alvin Holmes, chairman of the legislative contract review committee, said on Wednesday he was not sure why agencies submitted legal contracts for $40,000 because the big law firms would not work for that little. The Montgomery Democrat did not oppose the contract and said he thought a month ago that $40,000 sounded "cheap."
Current and former King employees have been called before a federal grand jury.
King, who plans to run in 2010 for his second full term as attorney general, has also confirmed the investigation and has said he does not know what they are looking for.
The Birmingham News reported in May that the subpoenas sought all documents related to communication with Alabama Power Co., the Atlanta Braves, the Business Council of Alabama, political consultant Dax Swatek, and others.
King, his family and some friends used the box of Southern Company, the parent of Alabama Power Co., during a Braves game in 2006.
Media outlets first reported the federal investigation of the attorney general's office in March.
Since then, the northern district of Alabama has a new U.S. attorney. President Barack Obama appointed Joyce White Vance to replace Alice Martin.
Bence said Bradley Arant was hired on behalf of the office because many of the documents in the office are legally sensitive and attorneys need to be sure they process the subpoena accurately while protecting the legal rights of those involved in the cases.
He said some of the requests could include cases of attorney-client privilege.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, whatever they ask for they are going to receive and have received," Bence said.
Gov. Bob Riley appointed King as attorney general in 2004. The Republican won his first full term in the 2006 election. Birmingham attorney and lobbyist Luther Strange, who was the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 2006, has announced he will run against King.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen


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Location: Montgomery, AL, United States

South Union Street is the blog of Montgomery Advertiser political reporters Markeshia Ricks and Sebastian Kitchen. Always check here for the latest on the Legislature, elections and other activities and players in Alabama.

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