Speak Out: Guarding the state’s money
by our readers
Jul 29, 2013 | 1829 views |  0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Re “Controversial costs: When state Legislature passes bad bills, Alabama ultimately pays the price” (Editorial, July 23):

Recently, this paper has reported on the payments made by the Alabama attorney general’s office for legal services. There are several issues related to these payments that require clarification.

Gov. Robert Bentley’s first executive order transferred the responsibilities of the governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling to the attorney general. My office accepted this responsibility, and we have done so with significantly less legal expenses in comparison to legal fees previously paid by the governor’s office for enforcing these same laws. Gov. Bob Riley spent approximately $1.7 million in legal fees in his efforts to ensure enforcement of our laws in 2009 and 2010. To date, my office has spent significantly less due to our diligent efforts to handle more of this litigation with our in-house attorneys.

The attorney general’s office has seized nearly $2 million from illegal casinos and $75 million is currently being pursued in unpaid taxes by casinos. Upon a successful outcome at trial, the monies will be transferred to the state General Fund. So far, more than a half-million dollars has been transferred to the General Fund from the proceeds of illegal gambling.

I do not take the expenditure of taxpayer funds for legal services lightly; we must use resources wisely. That is why I have made a concerted effort to reduce contingency fee legal contracts entered into by the state. On my first day in office, I brought the BP oil spill litigation in house, ending a contingency fee arrangement that my predecessor had entered into. This action will ultimately result in millions of dollars in recovery coming to the state, instead of going to outside lawyers.

Finally, the article referenced various other legal fees paid since 2011. As a point of clarification, the office was ordered by the State Board of Adjustment to make numerous payments for expenses incurred by former Attorney General Troy King. Such payments amounted to more than $97,000, of which more than $34,000 was ordered to be paid for the former attorney general’s legal bills and an additional $63,000 in payments to another firm for legal fees related to state employee’s deferred compensation plan.

I took an oath to enforce and defend the laws of the state of Alabama, and that is what I will continue to do at the most efficient cost possible for Alabama’s taxpayers. I hope this sets the record straight.

Luther Strange
Alabama Attorney General
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