Important information in this article, which can be seen here in AL.comAlabama. The area covered includes not only Florida, but Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.
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Trump’s southeast regional EPA administrator indicted on Alabama ethics charges
A Jefferson County grand jury has indicted the Southeast regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and a former Alabama Environmental Management Commissioner for violating state ethics laws.
Charges include multiple violations of Alabama’s Ethics Act, including soliciting a thing of value from a principal, lobbyist or subordinate, and receiving money in addition that received in one’s official capacity, according to the Alabama Ethics Commission.
Before being appointed by President Donald Trump to serve as the Region 4 administrator of the EPA, Trey Glenn worked closely with the Birmingham-based law firm Balch & Bingham and one of its clients, Drummond Co., to fight EPA efforts to test and clean up neighborhoods in north Birmingham and Tarrant.
I never dreamed they’d face the music in Alabama. I thought for sure judgment would come for Phillips and Glenn only at the Pearly Gates, where St. Peter would decide whether to send them toward a brownfield down below.
Likewise, former Alabama Environmental Management Commissioner Scott Phillips worked with Balch to oppose the EPA. Phillips and Glenn worked together in a company they co-owned, Southeast Engineering & Consulting, at the same time Phillips served on the commission.
Under Alabama ethics law, it is illegal for a lobbyist or a lobbyist’s client, called a principal, to give a public official a thing of value, including a job.
President Donald Trump appointed Glenn lead EPA’s Region 4 in August 2017, after incidents covered in the indictment. That region includes Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.
The indictment is not Glenn’s first brush with Alabama ethics laws. In 2007, the Alabama Ethics Commission referred a complaint against Glenn, who then served as director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office for prosecution.
However, in 2008, a Montgomery County grand jury declined to indict Glenn on those charges.
After leaving ADEM in 2009, Glenn co-founded SE&C with Phillips and served as a lobbyist for the Business Council of Alabama.
After he was appointed to the EPA position, Glenn reported income from numerous public and private entities, including the BCA, City of Birmingham, Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority, Matrix LLC, Blue Ridge Partners, Strada and Big Sky Environmental.
Big Sky Environmental made headlines this year after it accepted human feces from New York for disposal at its Adamsville landfill. A train that delivered that refuse stunk up the surrounding community and after national news coverage became known as the “poop train.”
After accepting his appointment at the EPA, Glenn recused himself from north Birmingham environmental issues for one year. Environmental activists and nonprofit watchdog groups have asked Glenn to recuse himself permanently.
Witnesses at trial
In July, a jury in federal court convicted Balch partner Joel Gilbert and Drummond vice president David Roberson on charges they bribed an Alabama lawmaker, Oliver Robinson, to help fight the EPA’s cleanup efforts in Tarrant and north Birmingham.
From 2014 through 2017, Glenn and Phillips worked with those defendants to oppose the EPA efforts, court exhibits and trial testimony showed.
During that trial, prosecutors called Glenn and Phillips as witnesses. Court documents and testimony, in that case, showed that they had worked closely with Balch to push back on the EPA as recently as 2017.
One exhibit in that trial showed that Phillips proposed to “hijack” a north Birmingham community organization that had been working with the EPA to clean up neighborhoods there. During his testimony, Phillips said that by “hijack” he meant “work with.”
In the same exhibit, a PowerPoint slideshow Phillips’ company had prepared for Balch, Phillips proposed to “undermine” and “fragment” proponents of the north Birmingham cleanup.
On the witness stand in that trial, Phillips denied knowing that Robinson, a state lawmaker, was being paid by Balch — something even defense attorneys didn’t seem to believe. On cross-examination, defense counsel showed Phillips a memo written to him in 2014 proposing “maybe Oliver Robinson” be hired for community outreach work in north Birmingham.
At the same time Phillips performed this work for Balch and Drummond, he served on the Alabama Environmental Management Commission, which oversees the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
On the AEMC, Phillips sat for meetings on north Birmingham environmental issues, including a 2015 meeting where Robinson spoke against EPA cleanup efforts in north Birmingham.
While serving on the AEMC, Phillips forwarded an advance copy of a presentation by the environmental watchdog group GASP to Glenn, who then forwarded those materials to Gilbert at Balch, trial testimony revealed.
Testimony in that trial also revealed that Phillips helped make introductions for Robinson, including a dinner in which Robinson met with AEMC chairman Lanier Brown to discuss north Birmingham issues.
In the wake of the federal corruption trial, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, Rep. Terri Sewell and Sen. Doug Jones have asked the EPA to put the north Birmingham Superfund site on its National Priorities List, a regulatory distinction that would open up more money for cleanup and potentially require area polluters to help pay for cleanup costs.
The Alabama Ethics Commission lead the investigation after being asked for help by the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office.
“The Alabama Ethics Commission is committed to working with Alabama’s District Attorneys, and all enforcement agencies, whenever needed and asked to do so, to ensure enforcement of Alabama’s Ethics laws on behalf of the citizens of Alabama; and these indictments are evidence of that,” Alabama Ethics Commission Director Tom Albritton said in a press release. “I want to recognize the hard work from the Jefferson County DA’s office which requested our assistance in this important matter; and from our office, Cynthia Raulston, the Commission’s General Counsel, as well as Special Agents Dustin Lansford, Byron Butler and Chief Special Agent Chris Clark for their hard work and dedication to the enforcement of our Ethics laws.”
In separate written statements sent by an employee of the Melton Espy law firm from a personal email account, Phillips and Glenn proclaimed their innocence and vowed to fight the charges against them. A message left for attorney Joe Espy seeking comment was not returned.