With her named cleared, Deputy License Commissioner Ramona Yeager is requesting Mobile County reimburse her $40,000 for legal fees she incurred after a federal indictment on public corruption charges last year.
Yeager, a 40-year-employee of the Mobile County License Commission, was indicted in the same probe as License Commissioner Kim Hastie. Yeager shared nine charges with Hastie related to conspiracy, wire fraud and mail fraud — all of which were tied to invoices submitted through a third-party contractor for public relations work performed in Hastie’s office in 2014.
Yeager was acquitted of all the charges against her in June. Throughout the trial, her attorney Dennis Knizley’s held a theory his client only “had a clerical involvement” in the case if any at all. In the normal course of her job, Yeager handled invoices from the PR firm Strateco the same way she would deal with invoices from any subcontractor, he said.
The scope of her work is part of the reason Yeager is requesting she and her family be reimbursed for their defense, which Mobile County Attorney Jay Ross said cost around $40,000.
“We have received a copy of a notice of claim from Mrs. Yeager and are reviewing it now,” Ross said. “She made a request for the reimbursement in the typical fashion that others that have claims against the county make.”
Ross said typically, if someone believes they have a claim for cause of action against the county government, they’re required to submit a “notice of claim” as a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit.
As of now, there’s no indication of a potential lawsuit, according to Ross.
“There is precedent under an Alabama law for governmental entities to pay those expenses,” Ross said. “I don’t what the normal course of business is because it’s the first time it’s come up for me in any venue, but there are some AG opinions out there that allow that to happen.”
Ross said a similar case occurred in Washington County, when Sheriff Richard Stringer was reimbursed $169,000 from Washington County Commission for the legal fees he incurred during a federal trial in 2013.
Stringer, who was also acquitted, was indicted in July 2013 for his alleged participation in a scheme to defraud the government by hiding the income of a jailer so the employee could continue to receive Social Security benefits.
Yeager’s letter was sent to Mobile County Administrator John Pafenbach, but it will be up to the Mobile County Commission to address the request. Lagniappe has a requested a copy of that letter, but Ross said it wouldn’t be released until the commissioners had decided how to proceed in the matter.
Ross said the Commission should address the issue sometime in the next few weeks. Commissioners said they also couldn’t comment while the matter is pending.