Author: Jason Johnson

Attorney pleads to assault charge after car crash

Initially charged with manslaughter, a local attorney accused of causing a five-car collision while driving under the influence will only face probation after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor last week. Court records indicate Margaret McDowell Miller entered a blind plea to a third-degree assault charge April 5 — more than a year after she was charged with manslaughter, assault and DUI after police say she caused a five-vehicle collision where one of the motorists later died. The Mobile Police Department said Miller was “allegedly under the influence of alcohol” in December 2016 when her Ford Explorer rear-ended a vehicle driven...

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County moves to settle rent dispute with city of Mobile

Mobile County is moving closer to resolving an internal dispute over rent the city of Mobile pays for office space in Government Plaza, though some are concerned the terms being considered in a possible lease amendment would be “inherently unfair” to the county. There has been friction because of how the city of Mobile pays the existing lease for at least two years, but the issue flared up last year during Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s re-election campaign. At the time, Mobile County Commission President Connie Hudson aired public grievances about the city’s decision to purposefully stop paying its rent to...

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Spencer Collier pursues Bentley suit amid own legal challenges

While the criminal investigation into former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has ended, a lawsuit filed by former law enforcement secretary Spencer Collier is moving forward as Collier faces his own legal challenges. Announcing the conclusion of the criminal investigation last week, Supernumerary District Attorney Ellen Brooks said prosecutors were frustrated with limitations in Alabama’s ethics and campaign laws preventing further charges against Bentley. Brooks was appointed to oversee the investigation into whether Bentley misused state resources to cover up an affair with his then-chief political strategist Rebekah Mason after Attorney General Steve Marshall — a Bentley appointee — recused...

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Victim of ‘teen party’ shooting dies

One of the five teenagers shot at a spring break party at the Grand Hall this month has died. The Mobile Police Department has confirmed that 15-year-old Anesa Baker passed away on Wednesday as of result of injuries she sustained during an April 1 shooting at a party for teenagers in Mobile. According to a GoFundMe page set up by family members, Baker had undergone at least three surgeries since the shooting occurred on Easter Sunday. The page is seeking donations to help with medical expenses and has so far raised more than $3,000. A vigil in Baker’s honor...

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Feds approve state’s 47-day recreational snapper season

The National Marine Fisheries Service [NMFS] has officially accepted Alabama’s plan to manage its own seasons for recreational red snapper fishing — paving the way for 47-day seasons in the next two years. As Lagniappe has previously reported, the plan manages the season lengths in state and federal waters off the Alabama coast is part of a two-year pilot program approved by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council in February. For the first time in years, Gulf states will be able to manage recreational snapper fishing off their respective coasts through individual Exempted Fishing Permits (EFPs) submitted to...

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Daphne Utilities says pollution claims exaggerated

Daphne Utilities (UBD) is firing back after continued allegations from Mobile Baykeeper that it’s violating pollution standards for sewage discharge and claiming the environmental nonprofit is misrepresenting numbers and overstepping its bounds. As Lagniappe reported earlier this week, Baykeeper has alleged Daphne Utilities exceeded permitted levels of certain types of bacterias when discharging treated sewage on several occasions in January — a claim based on the organization’s own reporting. It’s the latest in a series of allegations against UBD, which have already prompted civil actions from Baykeeper as well as the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). Currently, Baykeeper...

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County promotes its own to lead engineering, public works

After an 18-month search and a retooling of its public works department, Mobile County has found a replacement for long-time engineer Joe Rufer in two current employees. During a conference meeting Thursday morning, Mobile County Commissioners voted to name Bryan Kegley as the county engineer and Ricky Mitchell as the new public works director and chief engineer of the division of public roads. Under Rufer, who held the post for 42 years, the engineering department functioned as one body, but that changed after a $30,000 evaluation the county commissioned in 2017 suggested the position wielded too much direct control...

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Baykeeper: Daphne Utilities still violating pollution laws

In the midst of an ongoing lawsuit, Mobile Baykeeper claims Daphne Utilities continued to discharge “millions of gallons of sewage pollution” into the Bay throughout January. These newest claims come as Baykeeper presses on with a lawsuit against the public utility over allegations it was routinely violating federal and state pollution standards and “fraudulently reporting” the number and severity of sewage overflows. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall sued Daphne Utilities over similar allegations as well. In November, the eastern shore utility said it had initiated an independent investigation and would fully...

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No new charges in Bentley probe, DA blames weak laws

Announcing the conclusion of the criminal investigation into former Gov. Robert Bentley on Wednesday, Supernumerary District Attorney Ellen Brooks was clearly frustrated with limitations in Alabama’s ethics and campaign laws that prevented further charges. Last year, Attorney General Steve Marshall — a Bentley appointee — recused himself from investigating allegations the former governor misused state resources to cover up an affair with his then-chief political strategist Rebekah Mason. Marshall appointed Brooks to take over the investigation led by his office’s special prosecutions unit and to oversee a special grand jury that was impaneled in the Spring of 2016 when...

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Deputy recruiting pulls from area agencies

In a bid to recruit certified officers, the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office purchased billboards throughout the county including several strategically placed near city police precincts. Passersby at a number of Mobile Police Department facilities have probably noticed recent billboards featuring Sheriff Sam Cochran encouraging people to join “Team Sheriff.” Those ads were part of a multi-pronged officer recruitment strategy officials say has proven successful. Cochran has been vocal in recent years about difficulties the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office has had keeping and retaining deputies. Just last year, concerns he raised sparked the county to put millions of dollars toward...

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