Mitchell criticizes Taylor’s role in contract process

Published 9:11 pm Friday, October 22, 2010

Using information from the Examiners of Public Accounts, State Sen. Wendall Mitchell has raised concerns that his opponent, Republican state senate candidate Bryan Taylor, funnelled millions of dollars in law contract money back to his former law firm while working at the governor’s office.

Mitchell has said that while Taylor was employed in the governor’s office during 2006, he supplied law contracts to Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, Taylor’s former law firm; ensured that they were signed through the governor’s office; and raised the firm’s state contract earnings by almost $7.5 million.

“He personally saw to it that these contracts went to this firm, of which he was a member, and that’s wrong,” Mitchell said.

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However, $5.1 million’s worth of the contracts Mitchell has alluded to came from a renewal of a 2005 contract involving interstate water disputes – that is, the original contract was filed as “new” in 2005. Another $100,000 in contracts were addressed to the Attorney General’s office and did not pass through the governor’s office, according to records listed in Alabama’s Examiners of Public Accounts.

Taylor has bluntly denied that he fostered any connections between the governor’s office and Bradley Arant, and said he had no power to direct officials at the governor’s office to choose a specific firm.

“I never had a role in selecting a legal services contract,” Taylor said. “I can categorically say that I had never, ever, had any role in the selection of any particular lawyer or law firm receiving a state contract.”

Bradley Arant lawyer Matt Lembke has issued a statement for the law firm, saying that Taylor’s time at Bradley Arant was short-lived and unrelated to the amount of contracts the firm received at any time.

“Brian Taylor served in an entry-level position with the firm for a period of just weeks at the end of 2005 before joining Governor Riley’s administration as an aide,” Lembke said. “Bradley Arant Boult Cummings has had the privilege of representing the State of Alabama for decades, through several administrations, on many matters.

“The suggestion that the firm benefited from a brief association with Mr. Taylor before he went on to a junior position with the Riley administration is grossly inaccurate.”

All law contracts that pass through the governor’s office must first be reviewed by the Examiners of Public Accounts. After reaching the examiner’s office, law contracts then sit in Alabama’s contract review oversight committee, a legislative board.

After the board approves the contracts, they are then signed by the governor.

According to information from the examiner’s office, Taylor’s former law firm, Bradley Arant, filed 17 contracts from mid-2006 to 2010. From 2003 to 2006, the firm filed three accounts. One of the three had no costs figures attached to it. The 17 contracts together were worth more than $7.5 million – including the $5.1 million in renewal contracts – while the other two contracts before 2006 totaled $512,500.

While Mitchell said he is not alleging illegal activity on Taylor’s part, the actions are suspect from someone who bills himself as an anti-corruption candidate.

“A conclusion that’s fair to make is that it’s unethical,” Mitchell said.

Bryan said he believes the allegations are an attempt to distract voters from Mitchell’s own campaign.

“They’re trying to distract people from the fact that Sen. Mitchell has taken substantially more money from a casino lobbyist that has now been indicted for bribery,” he said. “Their goal is to make me out to be as bad as they are. Not only is it not true, it’s the opposite of true.”