A day after lengthy testimony as a witness for the prosecutors, government whistleblower Victor Crawford was cross examined by attorneys for Mobile County License Commissioner Kim Hastie in Day 3 of her 17-count public corruption trial.
In Crawford’s initial testimony Wednesday, the computer contractor for the license commission discussed several expenses he claims Hastie intimidated him into paying. He also made several statements about refusing to “pad his invoices,” which would be reimbursed by the Mobile County Commission, because it amounted to stealing from the public.
However, during this morning’s cross-examination, Attorney Neil Hanley questioned the combined millions of dollars Crawford has made in Mobile County since early 1990s.
Specifically, Hanley questioned a series of invoices Crawford’s company APL Software Engineering submitted to the county from 2012 through 2014.
In those invoices, an APL Software employee named Katie Williamson was paid an hourly rate of $75, which the county was billed for. However, in Crawford’s testimony, he said he only paid Williamson around $25 an hour and put the rest of the money in the company’s coffers.
Defense attorneys have already established APL Software Engineer typically operated with very few employees, if any. Hanley asked if Crawford was “pocketing the money,” an accusation Crawford didn’t deny. Despite what the defense suggested, Crawford said he never over-billed the county and wasn’t being paid “for doing nothing.”
He also said Hastie was aware of the way he was billing her office, as was his personal friend, Mobile County Engineer Joe Ruffer. According Crawford, County Administrator John Pafenbach also likely knew he was receiving money for work invoiced in Williamson’s name.
Attacking Crawford’s claim of never abusing public money, Hanley spent more than an hour going through dozens of APL Software Engineering’s invoices from the past three years, asking Crawford to validate each one.
According to those invoices, Crawford was making an average of $7,500 per month for hours billed to Williamson on top of the $150-an-hour rate he was already receiving for his own work. Altogether, those expenses totaled nearly $195,000, according to Hanley’s calculations.
However, in his direct examination, Crawford said Hastie had him pay for Williamson’s school tuition at Auburn for a class on Alabama taxes. The class was unrelated to work she performed for Crawford, but does apply to Williamson’s new position as chief clerk of the Mobile County License Commission — a position she has held since May 2014.
The defense alleged that “taking Williamson” from Crawford and other petty incidents made Hastie a target for the computer contractor and could have contributed to his decision to become an informant for the FBI. However, Crawford said he “was never mad” at Hastie and was only surprised by Williamson’s appointed to Chief Clerk.
He later testified that his surprise was rooted in an allegation that Williamson failed to meet the basic requirements for Chief Clerk required by the Mobile County Personnel Board.
It was also revealed Crawford was required to pay back $82,000 to the county’s engineering department in 2007, where he was contracted at the time. Hanley asked Crawford if the payback was necessary for “listing people’s tasks in his bills” his employees “didn’t have the ability to perform.”
“That’s what the paperwork said, but that’s not correct.,” he replied. Crawford also said, in his opinion, he shouldn’t have had to pay the $82,000 back to the county, but was required to by Ruffer.
This court case is not the first time Crawford’s lucrative contracts with Mobile County have been questioned. According to records supplied to Lagniappe, APL Software has been paid $6,312,462 since 1999, but has maintained work with the county since the late 1980s.
In 1999, Crawford made local headlines when former Treasurer Vivian Beckerle said he was “sloppy in his job and overpaid” while addressing the county commission. At the time, Commissioners Sam Jones, Gary Tanner and Freeman Jockisch vehemently defended Crawford’s performance.
Ultimately, with new people in office, the commission voted to end its contract with APL Software in 2007. A month later, the company was rehired on a month-to-month basis, only to have its contract terminated again in 2008.
Crawford has also had contracts terminated with the Mobile County Probate Court and the county’s public works department, which Ruffer supervises.
Ruffer’s relationship to both Crawford and Hastie has been another key element of testimony. According to Crawford, Ruffer was a “close friend and mentor” who encouraged him to seek his degree in computer programming.
This morning, Crawford was asked to describe the relationship between Hastie and Ruffer, but the defense quickly objected. After a sidebar, Crawford revealed he was told not repeat statements Ruffer made to him while he was on the stand — though he did say Ruffer and Hastie “ate lunch together often” and “had been to each other’s homes.”
Just before lunch today, the defense was questioning Crawford’s friendship with Hastie. In his opening arguments, Hanley described them as close friends who “shared pictures of their children” among other communication unrelated to their jobs at the license commission.