Alabamans wary of AG conflicts of interest

John O'Brien Apr. 23, 2007, 4:00pm


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Alabama Attorney General Troy King is most known for his relationship with a utility company last summer that caused a conflict-of-interest debate.

According to the results of the American Tort Reform Association's survey released Monday, state residents also care about any relationship he has with private practice attorneys.

Seventy-eight percent of those recently polled say his office should publicly disclose all contracts with outside attorneys and make their viewing accessible on the Internet, while a mere 15 percent oppose the idea.

"Too often these arrangements are governed by non-competitive contracts that are negotiated behind closed doors," ATRA President Tiger Joyce said, "and the contingency fees upon which these contracts are typically based give private lawyers, backed by state authority, a pernicious incentive to maximize the damage awards a defendant may be obligated to pay, even if civil justice is minimized in the process."

King created a stir earlier this year when it was discovered that he, his family and members of his chuch used Alabama Power's skybox at Turner Field during an Atlanta Braves game last summer.

Since Alabama Power is a utility that is regulated by Public Service Commission and King is supposed to represent utilities before the PSC, some felt it was a conflict of interest that Alabama Power footed the bill.

King said it was no worse than a campaign contribution, though he reimbursed the company for his family's share of the food.

Also, King, appointed in 2004, came under fire last year for asking former two-year college system Chancellor Roy Johnson to find a job for the mother of someone who worked in his office.

At the same time, King was investigating Johnson for using contractor kickbacks to build his $1.3 million home.

King also would not hire outside counsel to represent former Secretary of State Nancy Worley against allegations that she missed a deadline for implementing a statewide voter registration base, even though he was pursuing criminal charges against her at the same time.

Below are the full questions and results from Alabama:

-Should the Attorney General publicly disclose all contracts with outside lawyers and make those contracts easily available for public inspection on the Internet? (78% yes, 15% no, 7% don't know);

-Should the Attorney General competitively bid contracts for outside lawyers? (66% yes, 27% no, 7% don't know);

-Should the Attorney General allow the Legislature to review contingency fee contracts with outside lawyers before signing them? (69% yes, 25% no, 6% don't know);

-Should the Attorney General require outside lawyers working on a contingency fee basis to release detailed records of the hours they work and what they do? (87% yes, 12% no, 1% don't know);

-Should the Attorney General allow revenue generated from lawsuit settlements to be treated like all other state revenue and be appropriated by the legislature before it can be spent? (76% yes, 19% no, 5% don't know);

-And would you support the creation of a National Code of Ethics to govern contracts for outside lawyers for state Attorneys General across the country? (74% yes, 23% no, 3% don't know).

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