Committee prepares to review Riley contracts

Published 9:59 pm Sunday, March 29, 2009

MONTGOMERY — Democratic legislators who question several high dollar contracts, including some for people connected to Gov. Bob Riley, will discuss the agreements at a contract review meeting this week.

Contracts include $400,000 for Drayton Nabers, Riley’s former finance director and $250,000 for lawyers to help the governor’s task force on gambling.

State Rep. Marc Keahey, D-Grove Hill, who is chairman of the contract review committee, said he is mostly concerned about the amount of the contracts and the fact that they were awarded during a hiring freeze.

“It is hard to understand why the governor continues to give these contracts during the economic situation that we’re in,” Keahey told the Montgomery-Advertiser in a Sunday story. “The situation that we’re in matters more to me than any individual getting these contracts.”

The committee will review the contracts on Thursday.

The Alabama Department of Revenue wants to double the two-year, $400,000 contract with Nabers, who Riley appointed to be chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2004.

He lost election in 2006 and is representing the state in an ongoing lawsuit concerning taxes.

The department has also requested a $400,000 increase for the two-year contract with Birmingham attorney John Tally, who is working on the same case, making that agreement worth up to $800,000. Both contracts expire in April 2010.

Riley’s press secretary, Todd Stacy, said the contracts have been awarded in the past and the case is ongoing.

“It is not like one man is getting a bunch of money,” he said. “Nobody expects the state to drop the case. That would be irresponsible.”

Riley has also agreed to pay Nabers $200,000 to help the state manage its federal stimulus funds, so the former chief justice would receive $1 million in contracts since losing the 2006 election.

When asked about the total amount going to Nabers, Stacy said “if it was going to a Democrat on a no-bid contract, I doubt they would have a problem with it.”

The Alabama Medicaid Agency requested a contract for $100 an hour up to $110,000 with Arthur Ray, the former chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party who Riley appointed a district judge here in October 2007.

Ray also is the husband of Kelli Wise, the Republican who is presiding judge over the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

State Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, said the contracts appear to be “politics as usual” with contracts for cronies “and not helping anybody else regardless of their qualifications.”

But Stacy dismissed the comments as “just more selective outrage from Roger Bedford and the Democrats.”

“I’m not sure if they have a problem with the state hiring attorneys, or if they’re just upset we’re not handing out no-bid contracts to Democrat lawyers like they do,” he said.

He pointed out several contracts that Democrats requested and received including renewal of a $50,000 contract with former Democratic state Sen. Bill Drinkard to work for current Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little.

Both men are from Cullman and Drinkard’s wife once worked for Little in the Senate.

The office of Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr., a Democrat, also requested a renewal of a contract in December with the Capitol Action Group for media, public relations and project development. That contract is for $59,100.