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Last updated 8:49AM ET
March 6, 2021
AG and Ethics Commission Trade Barbs
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - The director of the Alabama Ethics Commission said Attorney General Troy King has not brought to trial any of the cases referred to him by the commission since he took office in 2004.

A spokesman for King said the commission's cases often lacked sufficient evidence, but the attorney general's office has pursued other ethics cases successfully.

Jim Sumner, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said talks between the two offices have not solved the differences.

"We just simply want these matters followed up in a serious manner," he said.

Since Gov. Bob Riley appointed King, a Republican, on March 8, 2004, the Ethics Commission has referred nine cases to the attorney general's office. Another four were sent to the office in 2003, when Bill Pryor, also a Republican, held the office.

None has been brought to trial.

The Ethics Commission reviews complaints somewhat like a grand jury. If the commission decides there is probable cause to believe a public official violated the ethics law, it can refer the case to the attorney general or to a district attorney to pursue.

Chris Bence, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said nine of the 13 cases referred since 2003 have been closed for insufficient evidence after being reviewed by members of the staff, district attorneys, federal prosecutors or a grand jury.

"The attorney general has a different and much heavier burden. His is the burden of proof," Bence told The Birmingham News in a story Monday.

The rift between the two offices was first reported in December by The Huntsville Times and recently by the Montgomery Advertiser and Alabama Public Television.

Of the four remaining cases referred to the AG since 2003, one was sent back to the Ethics Commission for administrative action, and one was referred to a district attorney. Two remain open, Bence said.

Bence said that during King's tenure, the attorney general's office has won 22 convictions under the ethics law 10 by guilty pleas and 12 by jury verdicts that weren't referred by the Ethics Commission.

Sumner disagrees with Bence about the strength of the cases referred by the Ethics Commission.

"We feel the case files we sent to the attorney general are prosecutable cases," he said.

Bence and Sumner agree that differences between the Ethics Commission and the attorney general's office precede King's tenure.

Riley arranged a meeting between the two offices in 2006, and another meeting was held in February. But differences remain.

In April, the Ethics Commission referred a case involving state environmental chief Trey Glenn to Montgomery County District Attorney Ellen Brooks, a Democrat. Sumner said the commission wanted a prosecutor who would take the case seriously.

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