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Friday, January 15, 2010

Riley's gambling czar resigns after gambling in Mississippi

The commander of Gov. Bob Riley's much-publicized Task Force on Illegal Gambling resigned this week because he thought him winning $2,300 gambling in Mississippi would be a distraction.
In a Wednesday resignation letter to Riley, David Barber said he concluded that his work on the task force would become a political distraction. He said he won the prize playing a legal game in a legal casino in Mississippi.
"While my actions were in full compliance with the law, I am convinced that the forces that operate illegal casinos in Alabama will focus on my actions as part of their continuing effort to smear you and your task force," Barber wrote. "The work of the task force is too important to allow it to be impeded by such distractions."
Casino operators and Democratic lawmakers were quick to criticize the task force on Friday.
The resignation became public on Friday, the same day the task force won a victory before the Alabama Supreme Court. The task force, which has already raided a casino in White Hall, was seeking to raid the bingo pavilion at Country Crossing near Dothan.
The state's high court dismissed a case filed by the Houston County Commission to prevent the task force from raiding Country Crossing and seizing electronic bingo machines.
Riley and Barber consider the electronic bingo machines to be slot machines that are illegal in Alabama.
The ruling essentially allowed the task force to move forward with the raid and seize the machines.
Riley wrote in a Thursday letter that he accepted Barber's resignation with regret. He commended Barber for his dedication and courage as task force leader and as district attorney in Jefferson County. The resignation will be effective upon the appointment of a successor.
"Despite a steady stream of personal attacks from the forces that want to perpetuate and expand illegal gambling in Alabama you have never wavered from your determination to see that the laws of Alabama are enforced uniformly across the state of Alabama," Riley wrote.
The task force shut down illegal activity in several Alabama counties as a result of Barber's leadership, the governor wrote.
Riley's office announced the resignation and released the letters at 5 p.m. Friday. The governor is on a trade mission in Costa Rica with other state officials.
His press secretary, Todd Stacy, did not return a message to his cell phone seeking further comment.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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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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