2 weeks ago

Birmingham Airport Authority scores final win in court over Alabama’s ethics law

The Birmingham Airport Authority (BAA) notched one more win in what is likely the final chapter of a nearly two-year legal battle over the treatment of its employees under the state’s ethics law.

Montgomery County Circuit Judge Brooke Reid issued an order on Wednesday saying that employees paid from “self-generated” funds are not considered public employees under the Alabama Ethics Act.

Joined by several of the state’s airports and nearly 40 utility boards from across Alabama, BAA had long sought a clarification on the status of its employees. BAA’s position, agreed to by Reid in her order, has been that its employees are not public employees because the funds used to pay them is generated from private sources, such as user and landing fees paid by airlines and rental and concession fees at the airport.


Alabama’s ethics law outlines that an entity’s employees are subject to the ethics laws if the funds used to pay their salaries come from “state, county or municipal funds.” Numerous requirements and restrictions accompany the designation as “public employees” for purposes of the ethics law, including the filing of annual statements of economic interest with the Ethics Commission.

It is estimated that the decision could affect thousands of people in Alabama who are employed by these entities in a wide variety of jobs.

Reid’s order is a rare second win in the same case for BAA and its attorney Mark White. The first-term judge had issued an order in favor of BAA in June. However, the Alabama Ethics Commission asked for her to change the order, soon thereafter.

White told Yellowhammer News that Reid’s most recent order provided the clarity his client was seeking.

“We are very pleased, again, with the result, and it is a very well-reasoned and considered opinion,” he said.

Tom Albritton, executive director of the Alabama Ethics Commission, expressed in a statement to Yellowhammer News that the commission also gained from the ruling.

“All the Commission ever wanted was for the Judge to clarify language which in the original order was unclear, confusing, and not supported by the case law the Order itself cited,” he stated. “She has provided that clarity through this amended order and we appreciate it.”

Read Judge Reid’s full order:

BAA Final Order Reid by Yellowhammer News on Scribd

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

10 mins ago

Auburn taking no action against lecturer who said ‘F*** every single cop,’ advocated for abolishing ‘whiteness’

Auburn University will not fire or otherwise take action against an incoming lecturer who recently sparked controversy for incendiary comments about law enforcement.

Yellowhammer News last week broke the news about Jesse A. Goldberg, Ph.D., who is set to begin as a lecturer in Auburn’s English department this fall semester.

The Auburn faculty member tweeted the following (censoring added by Yellowhammer News):

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F*ck every single cop. Every single one. The only ethical choice for any cop to make at this point is to refuse to do their job and quit. The police do not protect people. They protect capital. They are instruments of violence on behalf of capital.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Goldberg in other social media posts. He also tweeted, “Whiteness is violence. Abolish whiteness.”

Goldberg, as he has noted before on social media, is himself white.

Yellowhammer News’ reporting last week reached national publications and others across the state, leading elected officials to weigh in.

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) tweeted that Auburn “should FIRE Jesse Goldberg for venomous hate of America’s law enforcement community.”

“Auburn: please investigate, determine truth, fire this guy IF media reports accurate! Tax dollars should not fund police haters,” he added.

State Rep. Brett Easterbrook (R-Fruitdale), a member of the House Education Policy Committee, reacted to Goldberg’s statements about law enforcement in a Facebook post of his own.

“You wonder how our society raised a bunch of communist that hate our country? Here is one of the main sources of the problems in our society. Universities!” Easterbrook said. “Not all college professors are complete liberals that are educated beyond their understanding, but here is a prime example.”

“He also thinks we should abolish a society that could have prisons. Simply release all prisoners? Obviously he has no idea what type of people are in those prisons and yet he is educating our youth,” the freshman state legislator continued. “Professor Goldberg needs to resign today. If not, Auburn University, should fire him immediately. Our tax dollars are paying for this foolishness. As an Auburn graduate, I am ashamed that someone like this is ‘educating’ our children.”

A statement from an Auburn spokesperson to Yellowhammer News last week said, “Auburn officials are considering options available to the university.”

However, after that consideration, no action will apparently be taken.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) had written to Auburn on August 3 defending Goldberg’s social media posts as protected speech under the First Amendment. FIRE argued that since Auburn is a public institution, they could not punish the employee for his views.

Writing back to FIRE in a letter this week, Auburn University President Dr. Jay Gogue noted that he was “pleased to respond in order to confirm Auburn’s commitment to the Constitution.”

“Your letter specifically requests that Auburn ‘publicly disclaim the possibility of disciplinary sanctions against Dr. Goldberg,” Gogue continued. “Dr. Goldberg, in expressing his thoughts, was not authorized to and did not purport to speak on behalf of Auburn University. Auburn affirms that it will not take adverse action against Dr. Goldberg or any member of the Auburn community based on that person’s engagement in individual speech or conduct protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States or the State of Alabama.”

He added, “That is true even when such speech is deemed by many to be offensive, indecent, of little value, and of great cost to the institution. Indeed, even when a message may be viewed as disrespectful and abhorrent, Auburn will not violate the law or Auburn policy.”

This letter was praised by FIRE, who noted Auburn currently holds their highest possible rating for free speech policies among college campuses.

However, not everyone is a fan of the university’s decision on Goldberg. Reacting to Auburn’s announcement, State Rep. Proncey Robertson (R-Mount Hope), also a member of the House Education Policy Committee, said he was “very disappointed.”

“As you consider where to send your student to college, or where to spend your money on sports memorabilia, etc. I would encourage you to remember this decision by Auburn University,” he wrote in a lengthy Facebook post.

“This professor and Auburn Universtiy has a right to their views,” Robertson concluded. “But, they do not have a right to your personal tuition money or your tax dollars.”

Yellowhammer News has requested comment from Auburn on the decision.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

7 Things: College students with coronavirus will be isolated, PPP saved 672,861 jobs, State Rep. Dismukes has another bad day and more …

7. Fauci is already looking at coronavirus next year

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci has predicted that the coronavirus is going to be something that we live with for a while since it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to completely get rid of it due to how “highly transmissible” it is.
  • Fauci said that we need a “combination of a good vaccine and attention to public health measures,” and he doesn’t mean more shutdowns, but we could be wearing masks and social distancing for quite some time. Fauci added that “by the time we get through 2021 and go around for another cycle that we’ll have this under control.”

6. No plans to clean the Madison County monument

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  • Madison County Commission Chair Dale Strong has addressed the issue of the vandalized Confederate monument outside the Madison County courthouse in downtown Huntsville, saying, “It will be left as is for now.”
  • Strong clarified that there are no plans to clean the monument currently, adding, “[It] would not be right to ask county employees to do it.”

5. Democrats don’t want a deal

  • As negotiations continue between Republicans and Democrats over another coronavirus relief bill, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) has said, “Democrats might not want a deal, politically.”
  • There’s further evidence that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have minimal intention of reaching a deal. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has said that four offers have been made that include $600 per week unemployment benefits, but Pelosi and Schumer have rejected each offer and given no counteroffers.

4. Majority favor mask order

  • A new poll released by Hill-HarrisX shows that among registered voters, 82% would support a national mask mandate, with 61% strongly supporting and 21% somewhat supporting.
  • The age groups of 18-34 and 50-64 showed 81% support a mandate, and those in the 35-49 and 65 and over age range show 83% support a mandate, but even 66% of Republicans, 93% of Democrats and 85% of independents support a mandate.

3. Arrest warrant issued for Will Dismukes

  • State Representative Will Dismukes (R-Prattville) was ordered to report to authorities by 4:00 p.m. on Thursday per an arrest warrant issued for first-degree theft of property, which is a Class B felony. It is alleged that Dismukes stole well over $2,500 from his former employer Weiss Flooring.
  • The issue has been investigated since May 20, and the business owners were the ones who brought the allegation forward. The illegal activity is said to have happened “from 2016 to 2018,” according to Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey. Governor Kay Ivey commented on the arrest, saying, “If true, it is disappointing when a public official, elected with the confidence of the people, abuses that trust.”

2. Paycheck Protection Program saved a lot of jobs

  • It’s estimated that the Paycheck Protection Program managed to save 672,861 jobs throughout Alabama, according to a new analysis released by Business.org. Nationally, there were more than 50.9 million jobs saved.
  • There have been more than 700,000 Alabamians file for unemployment since the coronavirus pandemic started, but last week has been the lowest for unemployment claims since March with 11,692.

1. Beds being prepared to isolate college students

  • College students are returning to campuses across the state, and everyone has to be tested before classes resume. The University of Alabama board of trustees has decided to spend $1.2 million to rent out 252 apartment beds so that they will have beds free on campus in the event that students test positive and need to be isolated.
  • Their plan will free up 450 beds on campus for isolation. Keeping coronavirus positive students on campus will make meal delivery and medical attention easier, according to vice president of the division of finance and operations Matthew M. Fajack. Currently, there are 8,281 students assigned to live on campus for the fall semester.

18 hours ago

Nick Saban named to board of National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches created by former Tide assistant

Former University of Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley on Thursday announced the creation of the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches.

Locksley served as an offensive assistant for the Crimson Tide in 2016, followed by a year as co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach the next season before becoming the full-time offensive coordinator in 2018. He is now the head coach at the University of Maryland.

Speaking to NFL.com, Locksley cited a lack of black head coaches in the National Football League as well as among the college Football Bowl Subdivision.

“I wanted to create an organization that would be able to help prepare, promote and produce the next group of coaches coming up through the ranks at every level,” he told the outlet.

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Locksley is not the only Bama connection to the new nonprofit group, which will reportedly “seek to not only identify and groom coaches of color (male and female) for upward mobility, but also create a candidates list that will be vetted by a board of directors that includes some of the most respected and powerful names in sport.”

Included on that venerable board of directors is Tide head coach Nick Saban, as well as Ozzie Newsome.

Newsome was named to the College Football Hall of Fame after a four-year playing career at the University of Alabama. He also enjoyed a successful playing career in the NFL and is a two-time Super Bowl winning executive with the Baltimore Ravens.

Speaking about the board of directors featuring the likes of Saban and Newsome, Locksley explained, “These are all people that have either hired head coaches or coordinators or filled upper-level positions throughout their careers. They all have been at the top of the mountain, per se, in their respective areas, whether winning Super Bowls or national championships or being pioneers…”

“We want to use their experiences to help us formulate and produce the list of qualified candidates, so when people say there aren’t enough minorities to fill the positions that have come open over the years, we’re going to produce a list of qualified people that shows there are qualified people. What’s needed is opportunities,” he added.

RELATED: Alabama ranked No. 3, Auburn No. 11 in preseason coaches poll

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

18 hours ago

UAH receives grant to research how drones can aid disaster response

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) announced Thursday that it has received $1.1 million in grant funding to study how unmanned aircraft can aid the response to both manmade and natural disasters.

The money comes from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), who granted a total of $3.3 million to the 24 universities in that comprise an Alliance for System Safety that focuses on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

“These grants will help develop a greater array of innovative strategies to more effectively deploy drones during emergency response situations,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

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UAH says it aims “to provide insight into the safe integration of UAS into the disaster preparedness and response areas,” with the funding provided this week by the federal government.

A release from the university points to a FAA study that shows there are currently 1.65 million recreational and commercial drones in the United States.

Huntsville’s biggest university says that the FAA program from which the grant is derived enables the agency “to conduct research in airspace and airport planning and design, environment and aviation safety.”

“These important grants fund the research which allows us to learn and implement the safety measures associated with UAS operations in the airspace,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

20 hours ago

Warrant issued for State Rep. Will Dismukes

MONTGOMERY — A felony arrest warrant has been issued for State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville), Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey announced in a Thursday press conference.

The warrant is for first-degree theft of property, a Class B felony. The freshman state legislator allegedly stole more than $2,500 from a former employer, Weiss Flooring in Alabama’s capital city.

Bailey said Dismukes has not yet been arrested and has until Thursday at 4:00 p.m. CT to turn himself in.

The district attorney reminded the public that a warrant represents “a mere allegation” and that Dismukes remains presumed innocent “until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.”

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Bailey advised “the alleged amount is a lot more than” $2,500 stolen. He added that he was limited on providing specifics on the case and the allegations at this time.

The DA advised that the business owners brought the allegation to authorities. The time period of the alleged offense was “from 2016 to 2018,” per Bailey.

Dismukes reportedly told WSFA that he is innocent.

The state representative from Autauga County has come under fire recently for his participation in a celebration of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Weiss Flooring made the complaint on May 20, which would have been before Dismukes initially made headlines for Confederate-related issues. Authorities have since that date been investigating, leading to a warrant being signed on Thursday.

While Dismukes has rejected bipartisan calls for him to resign over his recent controversies, a felony conviction would automatically remove him from office.

UPDATE 3:00 p.m.

In a statement, Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) reacted to the news.

“If true, it is disappointing when a public official, elected with the confidence of the people, abuses that trust. I support the letter of the law, and no one is above it – especially those in public office,” the governor stated.

UPDATE 4:00 p.m.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan released a statement on Dismukes.

“We expect our elected officials, regardless of Party, to follow the laws of our state and nation,” she commented. “No one is immune to these standards. It is very disappointing to hear of these allegations. This is now a legal matter and it must run its course.”

This is breaking news and will be updated.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn