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Monday, July 22, 2019

Really! Who Cares? We do.

Blogger Comments:  Does anybody believe that politicians care if they have been indicted by the government?  It is sad to say but it is hard to believe that they care.  Corrupt politicians will continue to commit crimes/ethics violations until the state makes an example out of them.

This is an opinion column.
How does this work? Really?
How can a person who sits on an important public board continue to serve on that board after being charged with three ethics crimes, including using that very position for personal gain?
How can someone charged with voting on board issues on which she had a financial interest continue to get a vote at all, along with all the benefits and privileges of serving on the board?How?
How does someone charged with soliciting illegal payments from people who did business with the board continue to go on as if it is business as usual? How can the whole process drag on and on and on and on?
Sherry Lewis was president of the Birmingham Water Board when she was charged with – among other things – accepting fancy meals and other benefits for herself or her family from a water works contractor and a subcontractor.
The Alabama Attorney General’s office investigated and a Jefferson County grand jury charged her with three felonies.
That was 19 months ago. Nineteen months in which she continues to travel across the country at water customer expense.
She just got back from Denver, for a conference in which she spent $3,543.28 -- $455 in meals over three days -- to cheer on the BWWB’s pipe tapping team. Rah!
In the 19 months since she was indicted she’s been reimbursed for $6,543 in travel, including another conference in Vegas. Throughout that 19 months since she has continued to receive her $1,000-a-month salary.In the 19 months since she was charged, most importantly, she continues to influence the decisions of the board while her own future is in doubt.
How does that even work? And now she wants it to work longer.
Lewis maintains her innocence. And now her lawyers have asked Jefferson County Circuit Judge Clyde Jones to stay all the proceedings in her case – to hold on and wait – until her two co-defendants, Jerry Jones and Terry Williams, can be tried on unrelated federal charges in August.
Just wait. Just wait.
The federal charges against Jones and Williams came in May, 17 months after Lewis and the other two were indicted on state ethics charges. Her trial has already been twice delayed.
Now she wants to wait it out again, with trips and board pay – paid by the customers her alleged crimes slapped in the face – continuing to roll in.
Lawyers for the Alabama Attorney General’s Office asked for and received a hearing to argue over the stay, saying Lewis was charged with serious crimes, and “the public has a strong, compelling interest in resolving the criminal charges against Lewis” that would be harmed by the stay.Jones set a hearing for Monday morning.
Prosecutors did say they would be more open to the notion of a stay if Lewis were to agree to a complete leave of absence from the water board as a condition of her pretrial release, and if she gave up her board pay.
It is a good proposal, a reasonable proposal. An overdue proposal.
For no matter what happens in the federal cases of Jones and Williams – they are charged with wire fraud and conspiracy in a scheme prosecutors say involved fake invoices to the BWWB – the one sure thing is that Sherry Lewis should not still be serving on the board.
It is an affront to the people of Birmingham, and yet another slap in the face to water customers.
It’s just too bad it took a prosecutor to make that point.
John Archibald, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is a columnist for Reckon by His column appears in The Birmingham News, the Huntsville Times, the Mobile Register and Write him at

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