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SUNDAY, JULY 8, 2007

Worley trial set Monday
Ex-secretary of state charged with violating state’s election laws

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Former Secretary of State Nancy Worley, who spent four years as Alabama’s chief election official, is scheduled for trial Monday on charges of violating the election laws she was supposed to administer.

Worley, also a former Decatur High School teacher, faces felony and misdemeanor charges for sending campaign letters, campaign contribution envelopes and bumper stickers to five of her employees in the secretary of state’s office.

Defense attorney James Anderson said the attorney general’s office has a weak case.

“They are pushing it. The only thing that mentioned money was the envelope that was enclosed,” he said.

Chris Bence, spokesman for Attorney General Troy King, said Worley’s letters to her employees “are pretty powerful” evidence and a Montgomery County grand jury agreed when it indicted her.

“Had Ms. Worley not sent the letters, she would not be where she is today,” he said.

Worley, 55, has labeled her indictment “totally political.” Anderson said the Republican attorney general investigated Worley for months, but only sought the indictment shortly after Worley was elected vice chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party.

“I think it was to make the Democratic Party look bad,” he said.

“All of that is absurd,” Bence said. He said King’s staff began to review the case based on a complaint filed by one of Worley’s fellow Democrats.

In April 2006, Worley sent letters on campaign stationery to employees in the secretary of state’s office. The letters sought the employees’ “support and vote” in the Democratic primary on June 6. Worley was being opposed in that primary by one of her employees, Ed Packard.

In the letter, Worley said, “I will be honored if you will attach the enclosed bumper sticker to your vehicle’s bumper or rear window.” She also wrote that “if you choose to support another candidate, you have every right to make that decision without any problems from me.”

Worley’s campaign contribution envelope had boxes where contributors could mark off donations ranging from $25 to $1,000.

Packard complained to King’s office, which reviewed the matter and took it to a grand jury after Worley had lost the November general election to Republican Beth Chapman.

The grand jury indicted her on five felony charges of using her official position to influence the vote or political action of five employees in her office. It also indicted her on five misdemeanor charges of soliciting a campaign contribution from five employees.

If convicted, the felony charges carry up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine. The misdemeanors carry up to one year in jail and a $6,000 fine.

Trial on Monday

Circuit Judge Truman Hobbs Jr. has scheduled the trial for Monday, although he has warned both sides it could be delayed until later in the week because of other pending cases.

Anderson said Worley’s case shouldn’t be difficult to try. “It gets down to what is solicitation?” he said.

He said some of Worley’s employees had asked her about helping with her campaign, and she wrote the letter to let workers know, while assuring them they had no reason to fear repercussions.

Packard said what Worley did goes against the candidate handbook she published as secretary of state.

That handbook says: “It is unlawful for any state officer or employee to solicit any type of political campaign contribution from employees under his or her supervision. Such supervisors are also not allowed to coerce any subordinate employees into working in any political campaign or cause.”

Packard said Worley should have known better than to send the letters. “She was the chief election official,” he said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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