The resulting Lagniappe news article focused on how Hastie was paying for the lobbying and public relations related to her effort, which later became a significant portion of the government’s criminal case against Hastie.
Recently, the same article — published on July 9, 2014 — has been referenced in court documents and in open hearings from the case.
It was later revealed in court documents Hastie had indeed paid Gray, but through an earmarked fund she herself worked to establish through state legislation. Prosecutors now contend that payment was a violation of state law. That account is funded through a $1.25 fee added to electronic transactions at the License Commission, and according to its corresponding legislation, was intended to be used exclusively for the purchase of computer equipment.
U.S. Attorneys prosecuting Hastie have since pointed to her denial in the aforementioned Lagniappe article as evidence Hastie did not make what her attorney later called “a mistake” in “paying (Gray’s) invoice from the wrong account.”
As this story has been included as part of Hastie’s criminal prosecution, Lagniappe feels excerpts of her recorded on-the-record interview should be made public.
Recordings in Context
Lagniappe requested the interview after a newsletter discussing the potential savings of Hastie’s plan to merge the offices was sent to registered vehicle owners along with annual tag renewal notices.
The newsletter prompted a fiery email response from Revenue Commissioner Marilyn Wood, which copied to the Mobile County Commission and later forwarded to Lagniappe. In the interview, Hastie called the newsletter and Wood’s response “misunderstanding.” listen
Strateco, a public relations company, was responsible for writing the newsletter. In Hastie’s original indictment, she’s accused of using APL Software — a contracted company owned by Victor Crawford — to falsify invoices from Stateco in an attempt to hide payments for the merger campaign from the Mobile County Commission. An employee of Strateco later told Lagniappe the company was paid through Crawford’s company.
In the interview, Hastie discussed contracts and retainer payments regularly paid to Chad Tucker of Stateco, though she did not specify or discuss the manner in which those payments were made. listen
She said Tucker was the only person the License Commission paid for public relations services. listen
On June 26, before the Hastie interview, Lagniappe made a formal request for the travel and expense records of the license commissioner. After the request was made, Gray contacted Lagniappe to ask why the records were requested.
When asked about Gray’s involvement with her office, Hastie said July 7 there were no other public relations services being paid for with license commission funding. Hastie initially said Gray had no involvement with the efforts to merge the offices, but then remembered Gray had composed the very bill proposing the idea. listen
She also stated multiple times that Gray was in no way compensated for his effort, but had instead decided to compose the bill and organize meetings with news outlets voluntarily, though she said she wasn’t sure why. listen
Several hours after the interview, Hastie contacted Lagniappe and said she was “wrong about Gray’s compensation” and had since been presented with an itemized list of charges for his services. That conversation — conducted over the phone — was not recorded.
Finally in the interview, Hastie discussed a “$5,000 to $10,000” study performed by local economist Dr. Seemoon Chang estimating the financial benefits of her merger plan, one Hastie and her supporters began disseminating following her indictment in November 2014. During the interview, Hastie claimed Chang was going to be paid from her office’s budget. listen
Since, federal prosecutors have alleged Hastie attempted to pay for the study out of the same “1.25 account” she used to pay Gray, but for whatever reason, she did not finalize the payment. Earlier this month, Chang he has still not been compensated for his work.
Editor’s note: The interview with Hastie was originally made in two separate recordings, each lasts just under 30 minutes. These recordings are excerpted here, excluding material irrelevant to Hastie’s criminal case and removing statements Hastie made to reporter Jason Johnson off the record.