The Wire

  • Gov. Ivey travels to Japan, meets with automakers

    Excerpt from WVTM:

    Gov. Kay Ivey departed for Japan Tuesday as part of an economic development team to meet with executives of Toyota, Mazda and Honda automakers.

    The goal of the trip is to facilitate growth in the state’s automotive sector and reinforce relationships with the manufacturers.

    “The auto industry has been a key driver of economic growth in Alabama for two decades, and we want to make sure we’re positioned to see that growth accelerate in coming years,” said Ivey.

    The Japan mission comes as the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA joint venture is beginning to move forward with plans for a $1.6 billion assembly plant in Huntsville that will employ 4,000 people.

  • Wetumpka TEA Party Releases 2018 River Region Candidate Fair Straw Poll Results

    Excerpt from Wetumpka TEA Party:

    The Wetumpka TEA Party hosted a fantastic 2018 River Region Candidate Fair on Mon. April 23rd. A special thanks to the 49 candidates who participated and all of the citizens who came out to visit with them one-on-one and find out where they stand on the issues. We hope this helped you in your decision making process before going to the polls on election day, June 5th.

    This poll is NOT the Wetumpka TEA Party’s endorsement of candidates but is used solely for informational purposes.

  • Alabama Rep. Martha Roby Releases First TV Ad

    From a news release:

    U.S. Representative Martha Roby’s (R-AL) campaign for reelection in Alabama’s Second Congressional District today released its first television ad ahead of the June 5th Republican primary.

    The ad highlights Representative Roby’s strong, conservative stance on tackling our nation’s illegal immigration problem. It also shows the stark contrast between Roby’s clear record of supporting smart border security measures compared to Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi’s “lawn mower” strategy, demonstrating that liberals in Washington are not serious about stopping the flow of illegal immigrants into our country.

    “This has gone on long enough. We need to get serious about our border,” Representative Roby states in the ad. “That’s why I voted to use every tool available to secure it – including a wall.”

4 hours ago

Alabama judge tosses charge accusing ex-warden of leaking to blogger

(Morgan County Sheriff, A. Franklin/Facebook)

An Alabama judge is dismissing criminal charges accusing a former jail warden of illegally leaking information to a blogger critical of a sheriff.

The Decatur Daily reports that a judge dismissed the charge of computer tampering at the request of former Morgan County jail warden Leon Bradley after several days of testimony.

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Bradley was fired in October by Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin. His lawyers claimed Franklin and three employees lied to get warrants and have Bradley arrested.

The blogger’s grandson testifies that Franklin threatened to arrest him and derail his plans to join the Army if he told anyone about being a confidential informant or didn’t provide information harming his grandmother.

Two law enforcement officers testify Franklin asked them to issue search warrants they believed unjustified.

Franklin denies wrongdoing.

(Copyright Associated Press 2018)

6 hours ago

4 Alabama men arrested on drug trafficking charges

(Cullman County Sheriff)

Four men accused of trafficking meth in Cullman County, Alabama, have been arrested in a raid.

AL.com reports the men are each charged with trafficking methamphetamine, unlawful possession of marijuana and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia.

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County Sheriff Matt Gentry says the Cullman Narcotics Enforcement Team executed a search warrant on Friday. The team found drug paraphernalia, marijuana and 4 ounces of methamphetamine.

Thirty-seven-year-old David Jerry Reynolds, 39-year-old Damian Alan Blair and 58-year-old Robert Earl Brock are being held in jail. Thirty-two-year-old Steven Ray Moore is out on bail.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

6 hours ago

Police: Missing Alabama boy found safe in Mississippi

(Sylacauga Police)

Police say the missing 5-year-old boy who was reportedly abducted from a bus stop in Alabama has been found in Mississippi.

Sylacauga Police said in a Facebook post Monday that Malachi Quintanilla was taken by a woman possibly related to the boy’s biological father.

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AL.com cited the post and reported that police did not believe the abduction was random. The department said the two may have been heading to New Orleans, where the woman lives. It said the boy was found safe in Lee County, Mississippi, later that day.

The U.S. Marshal’s Service and the FBI assisted in the investigation. The police department has said it will issue a formal statement at a later time.

(Copyright Associated Press 2018)

8 hours ago

Warden testifies in trial over prisons’ Alabama mental health care

(Holman Correctional Facility)

In late February, Alabama prison inmate Billy Lee Thornton stepped onto his cell bed, put a shoe string around his neck and hung himself from the light fixture, according to an incident report written by a correctional officer who witnessed the incident. The correctional officer, who had been at the door of Thornton’s segregated cell talking with him about medication, immediately called for help.

As two officers rushed into the cell at Holman Correctional Facility and reached for Thornton, the string broke and Thornton fell, hitting his head. Thornton was rushed to the hospital. Four days later he was taken off life support.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson, who last year ruled that Alabama provides “horrendously inadequate” mental health care to state inmates, ordered a Monday hearing on the circumstances of Thornton’s death and the death of another inmate.

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Holman Warden Cynthia Stewart testified Monday in federal court that Thornton was placed on mental health observation but not a suicide watch after a previous attempt to kill himself.

Thornton was on the prison’s mental health caseload and had already attempted to hang himself on Dec. 27, 2017. A mental health evaluation presented to the court described him as hearing voices that told him to kill himself. He was placed under mental health observation, not a suicide watch, and stayed in a crisis cell under more intense supervision until Jan. 4.

The plaintiff’s attorney Maria Morris said there is no documentation to show that Thornton received a mental health check 30 days after his release from the crisis cell. The 30-day check is required under a January 2017 court order that outlines a plan to protect possibly suicidal prisoners.

After receiving another mental health evaluation where he was again described as having suicidal thoughts, Thornton was placed in a crisis cell on Feb. 22. He was released one day later. Morris said no documents show he received another mental health check before his death.

Stewart said she didn’t know at the time about Thornton’s first suicide attempt.

Bob Horton, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Corrections, wrote in an email that the department is continuing to “investigate and evaluate the circumstances surrounding the death of the inmate at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility.”

“This evaluation will include a review of actions of our contracted mental health staff and our correctional staff and whether those actions complied with departmental policy as well as any outstanding directives from the federal court,” Horton wrote.

The department said the incident was currently classified as an attempted suicide.

“I think today showed the Department of Corrections continues to leave prisoners who have severe mental health needs and have shown signs of dramatic decompensation in segregation at risk of harms to themselves without proper monitoring or treatment,” Morris said.

Thornton was 31 when he died.

His sister Taneisha Head, 29, was present at Monday’s hearing.

“We’re just here for the truth,” she said. She said he never had a history of mental illness.

“I knew my brother. He was coming home,” she told The Associated Press. “I told him we can’t wait till he comes home, and we can ride around in my new car and listen to blues.”

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

9 hours ago

Alabama police officer fired following drug, theft charges

(Dothan Police Dept.)

A police officer in Alabama accused of stealing drugs has been fired.

Dothan Police Sgt. Jonathan Whaley was arrested April 17 on charges of unlawful possession of a controlled substance and theft of property. Dothan Police Chief Steve Parrish tells the Dothan Eagle that the officer was fired Friday.

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Parrish says the officer was taken into custody last week when two supervisors noticed he was acting strange. He was tested for drugs, and his patrol car was searched. Police found Xanax, Tylenol and codeine they believe the officer stole while responding to a medical call.

Whaley is out on bail. His lawyer, Adam Parker, said the officer resigned before he was fired. Whaley has 10 days to appeal.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

10 hours ago

Lawsuit claims City of Birmingham denied company operating license for political reasons

(Pixabay)

A scrap metal processor in Alabama is suing the Birmingham City Council, saying it denied the company a license to operate for political reasons.

The council denied the license on March 20, citing health risks to the community. AL.com reports Councilor John Hilliard said then that he believes in economic development but not at the cost of residents’ livelihood. The lawsuit filed by Jordan Industrial Services seeks to compel council members to issue the license.

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Though the city downgraded the zoning of some heavy industrial property last year to light industrial and residential, Jordan is seeking to operate a facility zoned for heavy industrial use.

The lawsuit says Jordan has made an “enormous” investment in the facility and has met license requirements. No hearing has been set yet.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

11 hours ago

Appeal denied for Alabama man convicted in 2005 murder

(Lauderdale County Jail)

An Alabama man convicted of murder in the 2005 shooting death of a liquor store clerk has had his application for a rehearing denied.

Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly told the TimesDaily that he’d been notified of the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision in David Riley Jr.’s case.

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Connolly said Riley had sought a new hearing on the basis of “ineffective counsel.”

In 2011, the 33-year-old was convicted of capital murder in the death of 38-year-old Scott Michael Kirtley.

The newspaper did not include comment from Riley or a lawyer representing him.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

12 hours ago

Jill Biden to deliver commencement speech at Alabama college

(Wikicommons)

Jill Biden will deliver the commencement speech at a community college in Alabama.

News outlets report the wife of former Vice President Joe Biden will deliver the commencement speech at Bishop State Community College on May 10.

The Mobile school says Biden and former President Barack Obama led the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges during her tenure as second lady.

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Biden has also completed a College to Career bus tour to highlight innovative workforce partnerships that kick-start career training.

Bishop State President Dr. Reginald Sykes says Biden understands the impact community colleges have in providing postsecondary education opportunities in the country.

Biden holds multiple degrees including a Master of Arts in English from Villanova University and is an instructor at a community college.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

1 day ago

Arrest of black woman at Alabama Waffle House sparks investigation

(CBS News/YouTube)

An Alabama police department says it’s investigating after video showed a black woman being knocked down by police and arrested inside a restaurant.

The NAACP is calling the arrest troubling, and pickets stood outside the restaurant with signs.

A statement from the Saraland Police Department says the city’s public safety director and mayor are aware of the arrest and video, which gained traction on social media following a confrontation inside a Waffle House restaurant on Sunday.

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Video posted online shows officers arguing with a woman and then wrestling her to the floor as diners look on. Three officers are visible in the video.

It’s unclear from the video what caused the dispute, but Mobile-area media quote witnesses as saying the woman objected to being charged for plastic eating utensils.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

1 day ago

At least 3 tornadoes confirmed from Alabama, Florida storms

(NWS/Facebook)

The National Weather Service confirms at least three tornadoes in Alabama from Sunday storms, and is surveying other parts of southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.

A storm with estimated winds of 80 mph (130 kph) overturned five recreational vehicles at the Anchors Aweigh RV Resort near Foley after 3 p.m. The storm, with a 1.6-mile (2.6-kilometer) path, was rated EF-0 on the Enhanced Fujita scale. The Weather Service says three people were injured.

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A second tornado hit minutes later in nearby Elberta, causing minor damage.

A third twister hit the U.S. Army’s Fort Rucker after 1 p.m., damaging trees, power lines and a baseball field. The base reopened Monday.

Surveyors are still examining damage in Alabama’s Montgomery, Barbour, Crenshaw and Escambia counties and in Florida’s Okaloosa and Escambia counties.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

1 day ago

Trump appoints Keenum to agriculture board

(MS State University)

President Donald J. Trump has named Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum as chairman of the Board for International Food and Agriculture Development.

The university said the White House announced the appointment this week.

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The board was created in 1975. Board members are primarily from universities and provide advice on U.S. international assistance efforts in areas such as global food security and world hunger.

Keenum is an agricultural economist who previously served as undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture under President George W. Bush.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

1 day ago

Hearing on inmate suicide in Alabama prison mental health trial

(Pixabay)

A federal judge will hear testimonies Monday about a prison inmate death being investigated as a suicide in an ongoing trial over mental health care in Alabama’s prisons.

According to court documents, an inmate in segregation attempted to hang himself in February and died four days later. The Alabama Department of Corrections said in an emailed statement Friday that his death is being investigated to determine whether it was a suicide.

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Representatives from Alabama Department of Corrections are expected to testify along with the deceased inmate’s sister.

The Southern Poverty Law Center sued the state over inadequate prison health care in 2014. Federal judge Myron Thompson declared the system “horrendously inadequate” and ordered the state to improve last year. The center’s lawyers argue his order has not been implemented.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

1 day ago

Alabama observes Confederate Memorial Day

(Pixabay)

State government offices closed Monday in Alabama for Confederate Memorial Day.

Alabama has an official state holiday commemorating Confederate soldiers killed in the Civil War. It is observed on the fourth Monday in April.

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A group holds an annual commemoration on the grounds of the Alabama Capitol. Participants typically dress in Confederate costumes and pay tribute to ancestors who died fighting for the South.

An organization called Faith in Action also planned a Monday event to urge the state to rethink the appropriateness of the holiday.

Georgia used to mark the holiday, but removed the Confederate reference in 2015.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

1 day ago

IndyCar Alabama race to be completed Monday

(Barber Motor Park/Instagram)

BIRMINGHAM — Josef Newgarden applauded IndyCar’s decision not to risk 16 more minutes on a treacherous, rain-soaked track, even though he could have been the biggest beneficiary.

Other drivers weren’t so happy with earlier calls.

Newgarden will remain up front at Barber Motorsports Park on Monday for the completion of the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Drivers got in just over 44 minutes of a scheduled 2-hour, or 90-lap, race Sunday under heavy rain that caused some cars to hydroplane and affected visibility.

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The race was called before it was halfway through, and thus official.

“I was calling for us not to run and I was in the easiest situation,” Newgarden said. “I was leading the race, had the best viewpoint. We do another (16) minutes under caution and we call the thing halfway from a time standpoint, we pick up the win. It’s more advantageous for us to get it in, but I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t think conditions were right.”

The 2-hour limit of total race time will remain in place.

Newgarden started on the pole position and led the first 22 laps of a race he has won two of the past three years. The race restarted after a 37-minute delay because of the track conditions, but only got another few laps in before parking the cars again. The race was called after another 1-hour, 23-minute wait.

Sebastien Bourdais is in second, followed by two-time race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, points leader Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe.

Rossi said at times he could see “absolutely nothing.” He questioned the decision to put up the green flag after the first yellow caution, and “obviously the results of that was a car hydroplaning.”

It was the first time racing in such rainy conditions with this year’s new aero kit.

“This is the first actual wet running I’ve done besides a Sunday morning warmup,” Rossi said. “It was very bad (Sunday). I don’t know if that has to do with the generation of the car or not.”

Two-time race winner Will Power, who started in second and has won twice in Alabama, spun out on the first turn of lap 17 and slammed into the inside wall. He said on the radio: “That’s it.”

Power can continue his race but IndyCar was impounding his Chevrolet overnight so the team couldn’t work on it.

The red flag came out shortly after that incident. Power complained that he couldn’t “believe they went green” with that much standing water on the track.

“It just intensified to the point where you’re starting to get a situation where it’s going to take it out of the drivers’ hands,” Newgarden said. “What happened with Will was something I don’t think was necessarily a driver error. I don’t know how anyone can drive through hydroplane situations like that on the front straightaway.

“I think you would have had that for the rest of the track, too. Just a tough situation.”

(Copyright Associated Press 2018)

1 day ago

Driver crashes through brick wall at Chick-fil-A in Alabama

(Chick-fil-A/Facebook)

Authorities say one person has been injured after running a vehicle into a brick wall at a restaurant in Birmingham.

Birmingham Police Lt. Peter Williston told WBRC-TV the driver had a medical issue that caused the wreck at Chick-fil-A on Saturday night. The driver had non-life-threatening injuries.

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No one else was injured.

Police say the vehicle smashed a path through the brick wall outside of the restaurant outside the glass front doors.

The restaurant remains open for business.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

1 day ago

Life sentence for man in 2015 Alabama shooting death

(Madison County Jail)

An Alabama man has been sentenced to life in prison for a 2015 killing.

Jeremy Cattage of Huntsville was found guilty Friday of capital murder.

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The Huntsville Times reports that Madison County Circuit Judge Ruth Ann Hall handed down the sentence of life without parole after a weeklong trial.

Eighteen-year-old Cornelius Morris was fatally shot early on July 26, 2015, as he rode in a car. Another passenger, 20-year-old Alexis Crawford, was injured in the shooting.

The victims had just left a Huntsville strip club with four other people. Prosecutors alleged Cattage fired the shots because of an ongoing dispute with two other people in the car.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

2 days ago

Sheriff: 5 people injured during reported tornado in Alabama

An Alabama sheriff says five people have been injured during a reported tornado.

Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack tells WALA-TV that one of the five people hurt Sunday is in serious condition.

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There were dozens of reports about damage after a storm crossed Baldwin County Sunday afternoon. A tornado warning was issued shortly before 3:30 p.m. Foley police spokesman David Wilson tells the Pensacola News Journal that several trailers were overturned at an RV park and some people there received medical attention.

More damage was reported in Elberta as the storm moved east.

The Army says in a statement that severe weather caused damage at Fort Rucker, but no one was injured. It has been temporarily closed and extent of the damage is being assessed.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

3 days ago

University of Montevallo breaks ground on new Center for the Arts

(University of Montevallo)

The University of Montevallo this week held the groundbreaking for its new multi-million-dollar Center for the Arts.

The 36,000-square-foot facility will allow the College of Fine Arts at UM to provide a more comprehensive teaching and learning space giving fine arts programs a location to collaborate more across disciplines.

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“This facility is to create a new kind of environment that draws together students and faculty from all of the departments,” said Dr. Steven Peters, dean of the College of Fine Arts. “Our students and professors will have the opportunity for more conversations across disciplines in the arts and encourage more high quality, specific and interdisciplinary activity. This will be a creative engine for discovery and innovation.”

The Center for the Arts will provide opportunities for campus and community use with the following key features:

• Performance venues and hospitality space
• University art gallery
• Theatre Department offices and multipurpose classrooms and studios
• Multi-use digital fabrication lab
• Scene design and wardrobe shops along with versatile storage spaces

“I am thrilled that we, at Davis Architects, have been fortunate to work with the University of Montevallo and their outstanding theatre, music and art faculty and staff to bring to reality this wonderful new facility that they need and deserve,” said Don Cosper, Davis Architects.

The performance venue will include a 350-seat theater with state-of-the-art acoustics and technology for music concerts and theater performances, a 100-seat black box theater and a courtyard suitable for outdoor performances and receptions. Overall, the Center is a $25 million investment for the University.

“It’s exciting to be part of a historic project for the University of Montevallo,” said Ken Upchurch, TCU Consulting Services, LLC. “Working with Dr. Stewart on this project to connect the University, the arts, and the Montevallo community has been a true pleasure.”

The additional classrooms and labs will serve as a major asset for the University of Montevallo’s college’s recruitment program.

“This new Center for the Arts will be a state-of-the-art facility able to accommodate growth including up to 150 students in the fine arts programs over the next five years,” said Dr. John W. Stewart III, president of the University of Montevallo. “The cross function of disciplines under one roof will provide students with more marketable skills for their future occupations.”

Not only will the new Center for the Arts serve to promote integrated thinking within the University, it will also act as an artistic hub for the community.

“The facility will immerse students’ experiences in the arts,” said Peters. “The impact on the University of Montevallo, the Shelby County community and our university will be endless.”

The College of Fine Arts’ work focuses on creativity — but not only on creativity: the school’s mission includes integrating undergraduate education with arts advocacy and leadership, diversity and inclusion, engagement with social and cultural issues and partnership with individuals and organizations locally and regionally. University of Montevallo faculty and staff, as well as Shelby County leaders believe this new facility will prepare students to join the next wave of professional artists, performers, musicians, arts educators and communication experts.

“This beautiful new facility will benefit Shelby County and the State of Alabama as a whole,” said Alex Dudchock, Shelby County Manager. “We are taking the business approach to attract national and regional talent. Our goals include student retention and growth, as well as working to keep Montevallo graduates staying in Shelby County.”

Regardless of major, students are being guided to find their own creative signature, to discover what kind of independent thinkers they are, how they are uniquely creative, how they can become more thoughtful communicators and problem-solvers and how they can become more productive, creative collaborators. By doing so, the community is endeavoring to build the 21st century creative workforce at this beautiful place called Montevallo in the heart of Alabama.

“The College contributes to the development of intellectual curiosity, artistic depth and breadth. It provides a solid liberal arts foundation and professional training according to the highest standards to prepare our students to pursue the career trajectory they may choose,” said David Wheeler, Board of Trustees, University of Montevallo. “For us, an education in the arts is central to the academic mission of UM since it is a kind of liberation—a framework for creative interaction with the world.”

4 days ago

Grand jury considers Alabama woman’s stabbing of husband with sword

(Lawrence County Sheriff)

A grand jury in Alabama will hear the case of a woman accused of fatally stabbing her husband with a sword.

Authorities say 50-year-old Jeannette Hale stabbed her husband, Mark, in the chest while he played a guitar in their home on April 2.

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Lawrence County Sheriff Gene Mitchell tells AL.com that responding deputies found Mark Hale bleeding on their front porch. The sword was in the yard.

Mitchell says the husband later died at a hospital. An autopsy released Wednesday said the cause was complications of being stabbed.

The sheriff says Jeanette Hale was arrested on charges involving domestic violence and drugs.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

4 days ago

Alabama forward Braxton Key says he will transfer

(UA Athletics)

Alabama sophomore forward Braxton Key is leaving the team and plans to transfer.

Crimson Tide coach Avery Johnson said Friday Key has been granted his release. He says Key “certainly has a bright future, but he has to do what’s best for him.”

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Key started 17 games last season after missing the first 10 with a knee injury. He averaged 7.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

He led the Tide in scoring his first season and was named to the Southeastern Conference’s all-freshman team. Key averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds as a freshman while ranking second on the team in assists.

He says it wasn’t an easy decision to make.

The Tide is also expected to lose point guard Collin Sexton, who declared for the draft.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

4 days ago

Alliance aims to spur ecotourism, interest in Alabama delta

(Alabama Delta Alliance)

Several people and groups are joining forces to promote south Alabama’s Mobile-Tensaw River Delta and its natural resources.

The formation of the Alabama Delta Alliance was announced at a news conference this week.

The alliance aims to support the region and attract tourism.

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said the delta is “a hugely untapped resource for ecotourism.”

The Mobile-Tensaw River Delta is home to more than 600 species of fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds. With habitats that include huge swaths of swamps, marshes and wetlands, it’s a maze of tributary creeks, rivers, streams and bayous.

The Alabama Delta Alliance calls it one of the nation’s largest deltas, and one of the world’s most bio-diverse bodies of water.

The alliance also announced a new website about the region at this link.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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4 days ago

Wells Fargo to pay $1B for mortgage, auto lending abuses

(M. Mozart/Flickr)

Wells Fargo will pay $1 billion to federal regulators to settle charges tied to its mortgage and auto lending business, the latest chapter in a wide-ranging scandal at the banking giant. However, it appears that none of the $1 billion will go directly to the victims of Wells Fargo’s abuses.

In a settlement announced Friday, Wells will pay $500 million to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, its main national bank regulator, as well as a net $500 million to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The action by the CFPB is notable because it is the first penalty imposed by the bureau under Mick Mulvaney, who President Trump appointed to take over the consumer watchdog agency in late November. The $500 million is also the largest penalty imposed by the CFPB in its history, and matches the largest fine ever handed out by the Comptroller of the Currency.

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The fine against Wells Fargo had been expected. The company disclosed last week that it was in discussions with federal authorities over a possible settlement related to its mortgage and auto lending businesses, and that the fine could be as much as $1 billion.

“While we have more work to do, these orders affirm that we share the same priorities with our regulators and that we are committed to working with them as we deliver our commitments with focus, accountability, and transparency,” said Wells Fargo Chief Executive Tim Sloan in a statement.

The $500 million paid to the Comptroller of the Currency will be paid directly to the U.S. Treasury, according to the order. The $500 million paid to the CFPB will go into the CFPB’s civil penalties fund, which is used to help consumers who might have been impacted in other cases. But zero dollars of either penalty is going directly to Wells Fargo’s victims, and the bank has already been reimbursing customers in its auto and mortgage businesses for these abuses. Wells Fargo has been refunding auto loan customers since July and been mailing refund checks to impacted mortgage customers since December.

While banks have benefited from looser regulations and lower taxes under President Trump, Wells Fargo has been called out specifically by Trump as a bank that needed to be punished for its bad behavior.

“Fines and penalties against Wells Fargo Bank for their bad acts against their customers and others will not be dropped, as has incorrectly been reported, but will be pursued and, if anything, substantially increased. I will cut Regs but make penalties severe when caught cheating!,” Trump wrote on Twitter back in December.

The abuses being addressed Friday are not tied directly to Wells Fargo’s well-known sales practices scandal, where the bank admitted its employees opened as much as 3.5 million bank and credit card accounts without getting customers’ authorization. But they do involve significant parts of the bank’s businesses: auto lending and mortgages.

Last summer Wells Fargo admitted that hundreds of thousands of its auto loan customers had been sold auto insurance that they did not want or need. In thousands of cases, customers who could not afford the combined auto loan and extra insurance payment fell behind on their payments and had their cars repossessed.

In a separate case, Wells Fargo also admitted that thousands of customers had to pay unnecessary fees in order to lock in their interest rates on their home mortgages. Wells Fargo is the nation’s largest mortgage lender.

Wells Fargo has been under intense scrutiny by federal regulators for several months. The Federal Reserve took a historic action earlier this year by mandating that Wells Fargo could not grow larger than the $1.95 trillion in assets that it currency held and required the bank to replace several directors on its board. The Federal Reserve cited “widespread abuses” as its reason for taking such an action.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

4 days ago

Alabama education board to choose next state superintendent

(YHN)

Alabama State Board of Education members will choose the state’s next superintendent of education Friday.

Board members will interview the four finalists Friday in Montgomery to pick the next head of Alabama’s education system.

The finalists are Jefferson County Superintendent Craig Pouncey, Hoover City Schools Superintendent Kathy Murphy, Superintendent Association of Alabama Executive Director Eric Mackey and former Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott.

The board is seeking a replacement for former Superintendent Michael Sentance who resigned in September after one year and one day. He stepped down after he received a poor performance evaluation.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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4 days ago

Alabama ex-chief pleads guilty to taking money from police group

(Chilton County Jail)

The former chief of an Alabama police department has pleaded guilty to criminal charges.

State Attorney General Steve Marshall told Alabama media that Brian Allan Stilwell pleaded guilty Thursday to violation of ethics law and the fraudulent use of a credit card.

The plea ended a trial that began Monday.

The crimes he pleaded guilty to happened between 2010 and 2015 while Stilwell was the Clanton Police Chief and treasurer of the Chilton County Fraternal Order of Police.

Prosecutors said Stilwell took money from the FOP by using the organization’s bank debit card. They said he also used his position as chief to unlawfully take money from the Clanton Police Department.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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