Federal prosecutors filed a motion to prevent Mobile County License Commissioner Kim Hastie from encouraging her employees to speak with her attorneys during the ongoing investigation into her now 17 alleged public corruption violations.
The motion to modify the conditions of her release accuses Hastie of conducting witness interviews in late January with several employees at the license commission’s main office on Michael Boulevard.
The government’s allegations are consistent with reports from multiple anonymous sources that have contacted this newspaper about the interviews. The motion claims federal agents have evidence of Hastie conducting the interviews during normal business hours.
According to the motion, Hastie had certain employees ushered in one at a time into a conference room without telling them why they were being summoned.
“Hastie gave no prior notice to the interviewees they would be interviewed by her private
counsel,” the documents read. “Hastie and her private counsel used the interviews as a means to engage in personal trial preparation during the License Commission’s business hours, with an emphasis on interviewees’ views of Hastie and Victor Crawford, a victim as alleged in the superseding indictment.”
The most recent document alleges Hastie didn’t let her employees know if they had a choice about speaking with her personal attorney and goes onto say that employees felt “intimidated and disgruntled by the interview process.”
“Interviewed employees felt they had to be interviewed, given Hastie’s position of authority over them as License Commissioner and the presence of other supervisors at the License Commission on the day of the interviews,” the document read. “In fact, several employees felt they could have been watched by management during the interviews.”
The motion also claims certain employees continue to be “fearful of retribution from Hastie, including termination of employment,” which is similar to allegations made by Crawford in the original indictment. An anonymous License Commission employee also conveyed those sentiments to Lagniappe recently saying, “People are still scared of her here.”
At a Feb. 11 arraignment for the charges listed in Hastie’s superseding indictment, her lawyers said they intended acquire certain License Commission personnel files through Hastie — a procedure the government openly objected to.
The latest court filings also suggest Hastie’s counsel indicated an intent to utilize her current position as License Commissioner to access various employee records without issuing subpoenas with emphasis on Crawford’s employment records — who the government considers a “whistleblower.”
Federal prosecutors were quick to object to that defense as well, but a judge has yet to rule on those latest developments.
“Her position as License Commissioner does not and should not afford her special status that would permit her to bypass the regular legal channels of obtaining records for trial,” the motion reads. “Her role as a public servant only heightens, not diminishes, her ethical and legal obligations in the course of her public responsibilities.”
Lagniappe is reporting those statements directly from the most recent court filings, as no members of the media were allowed into U.S. Magistrate Sonja Bivins courtroom for the arraignment Wednesday.
Because of these concerns, the government’s court filings go on to request a judge alter Hastie’s conditions of release — the legal agreement that keeps her from being subject to a jail during the course of the trial — until a verdict can be reached.
If granted, the requested revisions would prohibit Hastie from conducting any additional witness interviews of her employees at the License Commission or during the office’s business hours, and would prevent her or her legal team from accessing any employment records without first issuing a subpoena.
Prosecutors have also requested a hearing before the court to address the requested changes to the conditions of release, but a hearing date has yet to be scheduled.
Mobile County Administrator John Pafenbach was asked about the interviews Hastie was allegedly conducting with employees, but told Lagniappe he had not heard of any such incidents.
Attempts to reach Neil Hanley, one of Hastie’s three attorneys, have also been unsuccessful thus far.