A superseding indictment filed this afternoon against Mobile County License Commissioner Kim Hastie includes two new counts alleging the prohibited release and use of personal information from state motor vehicle records as well as defrauding the IRS. Hastie and assistant Ramona Yeager were initially named in a 16-count indictment in November.
In a charge consistent with a complaint first made against Hastie in August by two private citizens, the new indictment claims she orchestrated a scheme to disclose the email addresses of 30,853 Mobile County residents “without their consent or prior knowledge to a political consulting firm for a political purpose, namely to publicize her support for a mayoral candidate prior to Mobile mayoral election held on or about August, 27 2013.”
The August complaint first reported by Lagniappe claimed a license commission employee downloaded the email address from a license commission database onto a thumb drive and then gave that information to individuals working on the campaign of Mayor Sandy Stimpson. The latest indictment seems to corroborate those allegations.
“On or about August 22, 2013 Hastie and (Deputy Licence Commissioner Romana) Yeager and other individuals known to the grand jury met with a license commission employee and Hastie instructed the employee to email everyone within Mobile’s city limits a statement endorsing a Mobile mayoral candidate,” the indictment reads.
Allegedly, the employee told Hastie the request was improper. Hastie then told the employee to download the email addresses onto a flash drive and “fearing retribution,” the employee complied. The drive later made its way to “representatives of a political consulting firm working for [Stimpson].” A day before the mayoral election, according to the indictment, “the individual who maintained [Stimpson’s] website sent a mass email to the email addresses taken from the information on the flash drive.”
The email was a statement of Hastie’s political support for Stimpson.
Regarding the new charge of defrauding the United States, the indictment alleges Hastie and her husband John Melvin Hastie Jr. engaged in deceit, craft and trickery to defraud the Treasury Department.
“They conspired to conceal from the IRS approximately $58,632.66 in income that they received from brokering land transaction and from timber cutting and land clearing services,” the indictment reads.
It goes on to say the pair filed fraudulent federal income tax returns and diverted and attempted to divert income earned by Hastie Jr. to their daughter, all in an attempt to disguise and shield income, which included two false statements of economic interest to the Alabama Ethics Commission political office holders are required to submit.
According to the indictment those false statements were intended to conceal $38,400 Hastie’s husband received for helping facilitate land deals.
The complaint Mobile County received in August suggested that Title 18 U.S. Code Section 2721 assesses a $2,500-per-violation penalty for any personal information disseminated for unapproved reasons. If accurate, that fee could theoretically be applied to each of the 30,853 email addresses provided and result in a fine of more $77 million.
In theory, it is possible Mobile County could be held liable for up to that amount, however the county has not been named as a defendant in this case and no separate civil suit has been filed at this time.
In a prepared statement after the original complaint was filed, Stimpson denied any knowledge of or participation in Hastie’s alleged orchestration of the data transfer. Today’s additional counts do not allege any knowledge of or participation in Hastie’s alleged activities.
“Our campaign relied on its hired consultants to deliver the most advanced digital campaign possible,” he said. “They managed and directed all social media and voter outreach efforts with the public. We were assured that all of their efforts in that regard were in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations.”
Stimpson’s personal campaign website, sandystimpson.com, was developed by webjed.com, a Mobile-based provider of online solutions. A representative of the Stimpson administration today said the mayor’s original statement remains true and he would have no further comment at this time.
Lagniappe reached out to officials with the web hosting company for comment, and Webjed issued the following statement on Saturday.
“We were instructed to send the email and we were not advised about the origin of it, all of which was consistent with our contract to build and service a website and make it work according to the instructions given to us by our employer.”
Updated to provide additional detail about the flash drive allegations, and to include statements from Webjed.