Decatur Industrial Development Board (IDB) may have conflict.
According to the Decatur Daily article referenced in our subject, a law professor at the University of Alabama said the IDB policy allowing industries that seek tax abatement to pay legal fees to the board's attorney is a conflict of interest. Continuing on with the read we find that Barney Lovelace is right in the middle of the conflict of interest. What a surprise. The board which is appointed by the City Council has no funding and no banking account. The company requesting board action is the only one paying for services to obtain an abatement. Those fees are paid to Barney Lovelace. The professor Ms. Hamill, specializes in ethics and tax law.
This process reeks of conflict of interest. So what if the board members deny the abatement? Does the client still have to pay the attorney, Barney Lovelace, for his work? The answer is yes.
Decatur Councilman Charles Kirby agrees with Ms. Hamill that the IDB process is in need of reform. The Decatur City Council President Mr. Ard called for a review of the abatement process.
The IDB was formed in 1963 and abatements were voted on by the Decatur City Council and the County Commission. This all changed in 2005 when the abatements process was legally transferred to the IDB. Mr. Ard, the City Council President, told the Decatur Daily that he believes the practice is legal however but he doesn't believe the IDB should represent both sides. We understand the legal transfer of power. That is not the issue. The issue in our opinion is that Lovelace is representing the company requesting the abatement because the must pay him for his services win or lose the abatement at the same time the company is submitting their paperwork to the company for approval yet it must go through the IDB attorney Barney Lovelace first.
It sounds like the fox is in the hen house in the abatement process and it appears that the City Council is looking for corrective actions even if it costs the City Council money. Folks, people know this process is wrong and they are looking to fix it.
The bottom line is Barney Lovelace is the attorney for the IDB yet he takes money from the company seeking the abatement. Lovelace prepares legal documents for the company to be presented to the IDB. Yet he denies representing the company. If the company is required to pay Lovelace they are his client at the same time he represents the IDB as their attorney. Those fees could be as much as $4,000.00 to $5,000.00 dollars. Talk about a conflict of interest. Lovelace reeks of conflict of interest in this case. If we understand correctly Lovelace said that in some cases the companies attorneys prepare their client's legal documents. Yet it appears that Lovelace still requires a fee for the review of the documents even though he is the legal representative for the IDB. If anybody should be paying Lovelace it is the IDB since he is reviewing the documents for and on behalf of the IDB. Catch 22. The IDB has no bank account and no means of paying Lovelace as their attorney so the cost is levied back on the company.
At least one of the foxes in the hen house appears to be Lovelace who by appearance is representing both sides in the abatement process but is getting paid by the company who desires the abatement. It sounds like the companies attorneys are not good enough to submit their legal documents directly to the IDB without the express approval of Lovelace. Lovelace then puts on his other hat and revies the documents for the IDB at no cost to the IDB. Sounds like a money-making machine for Barney Lovelace.