First week of Hubbard ethics trial concludes
Published 7:33 pm Monday, May 30, 2016
MONTGOMERY (AP) — The first week of testimony in the ethics trial of Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard concluded with a peek at the business dealings of the influential Republican.
Hubbard’s former chief of staff testified Wednesday that Hubbard didn’t tell him about two consulting contracts. Prosecutors also presented evidence about Alabama Republican Party work that was subcontracted back to Hubbard’s media companies when he was party chairman.
Prosecutors have accused Hubbard of using his political positions to make $2.3 million in work and investments. Defense lawyers argue that the transactions were above board and Hubbard was cautious to not run afoul of state ethics law.
Hubbard will be removed from office automatically if he is convicted of any of the 23 felony charges.
Some of the major testimony from the first week of the trial:
Hubbard did not disclose some of his consulting contracts to his closest aides and associates even as they worked on matters related to the companies that were paying him.
Josh Blades, Hubbard’s former chief of staff, testified that he had attended meetings about potential 2013 budget language that set parameters for any pharmacy benefit manager that Medicaid might eventually hire.
Blades said he only found out later that the qualifying company, the Bessemer-based American Pharmacy Cooperative, Inc., was paying Hubbard $5,000 a month for consulting work.
Blades said he was also uncomfortable when Hubbard told him he had “one hundred thousand reasons” to want an Alabama drinking cup company to obtain a patent. Blades said he was uncomfortable because he thought the speaker meant money in some form. He later learned Hubbard had a $10,000-per-month contract with the company. Blades testified that Hubbard asked him to make contact with someone in the patent office.
A Florida political consultant testified that he felt he had no option but to subcontract GOP campaign printing work back to Hubbard’s company, but that he didn’t get a direct order from Hubbard to do so.
Randy Kammerdiner, who designed glossy campaign mailers for Republican campaigns in 2010, testified he “certainly believed” party officials wanted him to use Hubbard’s firm to print the materials. However, in a positive note for the defense, he testified that Hubbard never personally directed him to use Craftmaster. Hubbard is a part owner of the company.
However, prosecutors introduced company emails where Kammerdiner and his business partner appeared to lament the use of Craftmaster and complained about the printing costs. Kammerdiner stressed the need to keep the peace in order to keep doing work in Alabama.
Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar testified that she was concerned that language added to a 2013 budget bill would have set up a monopoly on Medicaid drug business for one company: American Pharmacy Cooperative, Inc. Hubbard was on its payroll.
Medicaid officials opposed the language and worked to get it stripped from the budget.
Defense attorney Bill Baxley tried to suggest that another lawmaker, who later pleaded guilty to an ethics violation, was to blame.
Azar said Rep. Greg Wren became “unreasonably” angry at efforts to strip the language. Wren later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor ethics charge that forced him out of office, acknowledging that the cooperative had ties to another company paying him $8,000 a month for consulting.
A prosecutor and a defense lawyer in opening statements presented jurors with conflicting portraits of Hubbard.
Prosecutor Matt Hart described Hubbard as a calculating individual who used his office to make money, particularly when his personal finances began to crumble.
“The evidence is going to show that this guy knew exactly what he was doing … and he should be held accountable,” Hart told jurors.
Baxley said Hubbard was meticulous about staying within bounds of the ethics law that he said contains exemptions for normal business dealings and friendships.
“We have a citizen Legislature, and the citizen legislators have to have a part-time job unless they are wealthy,” Baxley told jurors.