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Riley pays $195 an hour to handle stimulus

MONTGOMERY — Two former members of Gov. Bob Riley’s administration will receive $195 per hour for helping oversee money that Alabama gets from a federal economic stimulus package.

An emergency contract signed by the governor provides for Drayton Nabers and David Perry of the Maynard, Cooper & Gale law firm in Birmingham to receive the payments for two months. Paralegals from the law firm will receive $85 per hour, with the contract to pay of maximum of $50,000 by March 26.

Nabers was Riley’s state finance director from 2003 to 2004, when Riley appointed him to be chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Nabers lost the 2006 election for chief justice and began practicing law in Birmingham. Perry was an assistant finance director in 2003-2004.

Riley announced Feb. 4 that he was contracting with Nabers to oversee the stimulus package because there was no one in state government to handle the complicated legislation and because Alabama would have to move quickly to obtain some of the funds once it was passed by Congress. The administration said then that details of the contract with Nabers were still being negotiated.

The short-term emergency contract will be replaced by a longer contract, assuming Congress completes work on a stimulus package. Riley’s communications director, Jeff Emerson, said that contract is being worked out.

Nabers and his law firm, Maynard, Cooper & Gale, already have a contract with the Riley administration to represent the state in a federal court lawsuit challenging how Alabama levies property taxes. That one-year contract provides for $190 per hour, with a maximum payment of $400,000, according to state records.

Depending on the amount of work Nabers performs under each contract, he could end up receiving more than the finance director’s or chief justice’s salary.

The finance director’s salary is $91,013 annually. The chief justice makes $161,003 to $201,253 annually, depending on the years of experience as a judge.

Riley contracted with Nabers and Perry after placing a freeze on hiring state employees in December due to a slowdown in state tax collections. The governor’s spokesman said the governor was not breaking the hiring freeze.

“The hiring freeze applies to state employees. These folks are not state employees,” Emerson said.

The chairman of a Senate budget committee doesn’t see much difference.

“I don’t understand the rationale. I though he was putting a freeze on hiring,” Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, said Wednesday.