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Monday, October 5, 2009

Former Riley appointee goes after Riley ... again

Republican candidate for governor Bill Johnson is again taking issue with Gov. Bob Riley's involvement with negotiations over the billions in sewer debt in Jefferson County.
In a Montgomery Advertiser article a week ago, a spokesman for Riley said the governor had not been involved in the sewer negotiations in almost a year and said "this guy has no idea what he's talking about."
Johnson, who had worked alongside Riley politically since at least 1996, said he and other people were surprised by the comments of Riley Press Secretary Todd Stacy. Johnson had called on Riley to recuse himself from the negotiations because of connections of two family members to law firms working with Jefferson County. He said there was the appearance of a conflict of interest, but has accused no one of wrongdoing.
In a release on Monday, Johnson referenced a Birmingham News story from March 25 reading "Gov. Bob Riley has formally asked the Obama Administration to guarantee Jefferson County's bonds as part of a debt-restructuring plan to solve the $3.9 billion sewer debt crisis. ... Riley, who is serving as the county's lead negotiator, met in Washington last month with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to discuss federal help for the county."
Johnson, in a statement, said "if the governor is no longer serving as Jefferson County's lead negotiator, that would be news to the citizens of Jefferson County and the bond holders of the debt." Along with that work on the county's sewer debt, Johnson said Riley sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services, and to U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, ranking member of the committee. The letter, in which Riley writes about work on the sewer debt, is dated less than five months ago.
Despite the comments from Stacy, Johnson said it is obvious Riley was involved.
"The issue in question, however, is not the governor's continued discussions on behalf of Jefferson County," he said. "The governor, as chief executive officer of the state, is an appropriate figure to negotiate crises such as those surrounding Jefferson County, as long as the involvement does not present the appearance of a conflict of interest or unjust enrichment to the negotiator or his family. It is for that reason and that reason alone that I believe the governor should step away from involvement in the Jefferson County sewer crisis, occupational taxes and other negotiations."
Stacy said Riley's family has not benefited from his role in Jefferson County. The governor has adamantly denied his family has benefited financially from his time as governor.
"Either Johnson knows this and his complaining is a silly ploy to get attention for his campaign, or he has no clue what's going on with the state's largest county," Stacy said in a response a week ago.
The president of the Jefferson County Commission, Bettye Fine Collins, said last week that she was shocked by Johnson's comments, which she said are unfounded.
Johnson has criticized the administration several times since resigning this summer.
Johnson worked on Riley's campaigns for Congress and governor and had served in his cabinet as director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't really get what Bill Johnson is trying to do here. Riley isn't an opponent, so...?

October 5, 2009 at 8:43 PM  

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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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