Committee hires attorney for Bishop-Barron incident
By M.J. Ellington
MONTGOMERY — The Senate Ethics and Conduct Committee hired former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones on Tuesday as general counsel.
Jones will help the five-member committee investigate conduct or ethics complaints filed by one member of the Senate against another, including the June 7 televised altercation between two senators.
Sen. Charles Bishop, R-Jasper, hit Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, on the last day of the 2007 regular session.
Jones was U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and a 2006 candidate for chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party.
He also served as an attorney to former Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat.
Jones will help the committee draft operating rules for its investigations and advise the committee on any complaints.
He said he will study rules used by the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee and by other state legislatures.
He said his recommenda-tions should be ready in 30 to 45 days.
Committee Chairman Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman, described Jones as a man who can work objectively with members of both parties.
Little cited Jones’ appointment by Republican Gov. Bob Riley’s administration to advise the state Judicial Inquiry Commission.
Jim Ward, a Birmingham attorney representing Bishop, also endorsed Jones’ selection, saying he is confident Jones will be fair.
The committee’s lone Republican member, Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale, agreed.
The committee will pay Jones $175 per hour up to $75,000 on funds available though the office of Senate President Pro Tem Hinton Mitchem, D-Union Grove.
The Judicial Inquiry Commission is paying the same hourly rate.
The committee acts as a kind of grand jury that looks into allegations, drafts opinions and makes recommendations to the Senate.
“I want everyone to know that this is a very serious committee,” Little said. “If there are complaints filed, if there are competing issues, they deserve to be handled in a fair way.”
Little stressed that the committee also will abide by state open meetings law, first meeting in public session and then going into executive session only when deliberations require discussion of good name and character.
The committee hopes to draft any recommendations for the Senate before the end of the year, well before the next legislative session.
Committee members include Sens. Kim Benefield, D-Woodland; Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega; and Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro.
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