Riley officials use plane to make case for Paragon
Acting Finance Director Bill Newton, Chief of Staff Dave Stewart and Communications Director Jeff Emerson were responding to criticism from Democrats of a $13 million contract with a consulting company hired to help revamp the computer system that the state uses for financial functions such as purchasing and payroll.
State Rep. Alvin Holmes, chairman of the legislative contract review committee, criticized the use of the state plane for "propaganda." Holmes, D-Montgomery, and other Democratic lawmakers have questioned the $13 million no-bid contract with a company that has no Web site, no listed phone number and lists personal residences as its headquarters in Virginia and Montgomery. The committee held up the contract for the maximum of 45 days and the proposal was delivered to Riley's office on Monday.
Holmes said he wanted access to the plane if officials in the administration were going to use it to make their case and he wanted the some refreshments. Emerson said they would accommodate Holmes. He said he had a Diet Coke, Stewart had a Coke and cheese and peanut butter crackers, and Newton had a package of peanuts.
"But this is getting ridiculous," Emerson said.
"Mr. Holmes criticized us for not answering questions. Now, he is criticizing us for going out and answering questions."
Holmes told the Montgomery Advertiser on Thursday that he would decide whether he was going to use the plane after talking to other members of the legislative contract review committee over the coming weekend.
Newton, Emerson, Stewart and Deputy State Finance Director Anne Elizabeth McGowin met with a reporter and an editor at the Montgomery Advertiser on Wednesday to discuss the contract before traveling to Huntsville and Birmingham on the plane on Thursday.
Emerson said he did not know how much the use of the plane cost, but said it is common for members of the administration to use it and the use is published on the governor's Web site.
Newton said Paragon has performed well in helping the state.
-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen