Since 2010, Alabama Democrats have complained about the way the new Republican majority is running things in Montgomery. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Republicans and journalists in Montgomery, we now know that the Democrats are the true big spenders.
Recently uncovered records revealed a shocking lack of accountability and ethics in the formerly Democratic-controlled Senate, culminating in outrageous spending over the course of five years from the president pro tem’s office. In the last year of Democratic control, the office spent close to $2.1 million dollars, often showing preferential treatment to employees hired by Democrats by paying questionable “bonuses.” They often ignored the basics of running an office, such as paying bills on time, or even at all. Several delinquent bills fell on a fresh Republican administration, saddling them and the state of Alabama with the check for their wasteful ways.
The accountability for these egregious wastes of taxpayer money rests on a few key players at the top of the Senate. The chief financial officer of the former Democratic-controlled president pro tem’s office left dismissed employees on record, letting checks pile up, sometimes sitting in desk drawers for years. This says nothing of checks being disbursed to employees of the pro tem’s office for times they are recorded as not working. Massive “bonuses” for preferred employees were often added to their budget.
The Montgomery Advertiser reported June 19 that “one top staffer received a raise of $7,102 per period in her last two paychecks and at least five other employees received a raise of at least $3,000 per pay period in each of their last two paychecks. Those were on top of some large one-time payments such as bonuses or supplements of up to $13,000 that some employees received through the years.” Many high-level employees directly benefited from these bonuses and raises approved by the then-president pro tem, Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham.
Smitherman penned memos approving bonuses for preferred employees such as his chief financial officer and his chief of staff. Records show they received exorbitant bonuses from one of Smitherman’s predecessors, Democratic Sen. Lowell Barron. This shows that the Democrats who controlled the Senate had little regard for the taxpayer’s money and used it like “play money.”
The kind of wasteful spending and cronyism shown to select employees proves that Democrats are not focused on the greater good for Alabama, but instead are focused on their own greed and power-grabbing tactics. These egregious wastes of taxpayer money serve to illustrate why Alabama simply cannot afford more Democratic control.
Republican Sen. Del Marsh of Anniston, in his first term as president pro tem, has curbed spending and corrected the overdrafts left to the office. From paying overdue bills to assuring payment for insurance for employees, Marsh has drastically turned the spending of the office around. Marsh has halved spending from his office alone, and has reduced the size of the office staff from the more than 40 employed under Democratic leadership to just four employees today. This is the type of leadership that Alabama needs and the accountability taxpayers deserve.
The record of the president pro tem’s office under Democratic rule reveals reckless irresponsibility. These guys raided Alabama’s coffers for too long and it has taken the better part of two years to clean up their grossly mismanaged mess. Fortunately, Alabama now has Republican leadership that values responsibility and is seeking to correct these abuses committed against the people of Alabama. I applaud Sen. Marsh and his efforts to lead by example by managing to have his office live within its means, just like families all across Alabama.
Bill Armistead, a former state senator from Columbiana, is the chairman of the Alabama Republican Party.