Multiple sources familiar with the Mobile County License Commission have corroborated reports of the FBI attempting to gather information from the office on Michael Boulevard July 16.
It is not yet known what is being sought, but sources close to the situation have reported subpoenas have been issued both to the License Commission office and to the County.
Someone with knowledge of the incident said computer hard drives were rumored within the building to have been taken, but those claims could not be verified.
The sources also said FBI agents were at the License Commission July 16, which would have been closed at the time, as it is every Wednesday.
Only July 18, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office said they could not confirm or deny an investigation. Multiple attempts to reach License Commissioner Kim Hastie for comment on the reports were unsuccessful.
Chad Tucker, whose company Strateco handles certain public relations work for Hastie’s office, said he was unaware of any probes by the FBI, but also hasn’t spoken with the commissioner since the alleged incident.
Jonathan Gray with Strategy Public Relations has also worked with Hastie’s office and said he also hadn’t been briefed on any such incident.
“I’ve been out of town working campaigns and I’m just heading back to Mobile,” Gray said Thursday. “Maybe the FBI read your article.”
Gray was referencing an article published in the July 10 issue of Lagniappe, featuring an interview with Hastie discussing the funding for newsletters, public relations and lobbying efforts tied to a push to merge the positions of Mobile County’s license and revenue commissioner.
In the article, Hastie said her office has paid Gray $10,000 since she took office in 2009, a total that includes a $1,500 charge for marketing concepts, $3,600 for the production of brochures and $5,000 to help write Hastie’s consolidation bill.
That bill, which was pitched to the state legislature earlier this year, would have put Hastie in charge of both the revenue and license commissions.
According to Hastie, her plan would also generate $1 million in annual savings to the county after two years.
Reportedly, the Mobile legislative delegation had issues with the salary outlined in the first draft of the bill, which would have been equal to 75 percent of both offices combined, or a $40,000 increase for Hastie.
Since, the verbiage has changed to establish a salary of $95,000, which Hastie wouldn’t even be qualified to receive until her second term as revenue commissioner.
Because of the length of the session, the consolidation was tabled until the legislature’s next active session.
Lagniappe requested the financial records of any efforts tied to the consolidation of the two offices, and compensation for neither Gray nor Strateco was included in the materials received.
A request for documentation of those transactions was also made to Tyler Pritchett, an attorney with the Mobile License Commission, but that information was not available at the time of publication.
Tucker, who’s company has been paid $2,500 for public relations work over the past several months, told Lagniappe he was compensated by a third party instead of being paid directly by the license commission.
“It was paid by a vendor that worked for Mrs. Hastie’s office,” Tucker said.
That vendor was confirmed by Tucker to be APL Software Engineering.
According to records provided by Mobile County, APL Software Engineering Inc. has been contracted through Hastie’s office since at least November of 2013. The company is owned by Victor Crawford.
Records show APL Software charged the county $292,958 between November of 2013 and June of 2014 – the largest of four “consultant expenditures” charged by the License Commission during that time period.
Crawford, who denied a request to be interviewed for this story, has also worked with Mobile County for more than a decade – a history that wasn’t without some controversy.
Media reports show the company and Crawford both drew criticism from county officials in 1997 after a state audit listed problems with data processing at the License Commission.
Media reports from 1999 also highlighted issues between APL Software and former Mobile County Treasurer Vivian Beckerle.
In 2007, the County Commission voted to end its long-term contract with APL Software, only a few months before approving a separate one-year contract allowing the company to work specifically with the License Commission.
In 2008, commissioners again voted 2-1 to break ties with the organization. At the time, the Mobile Press-Register quoted a former commissioner saying the company “failed to share vital information with county officials.”
APL Software legally changed its name to Bienville Rock Software, Inc. in 2009, according to the Alabama Secretary of State’s website.
On Feb. 5, 2014, Bienville Rock Software, Inc. made a $1,800 contribution to Hastie’s campaign for Revenue Commissioner — the only contribution listed for Hastie in the Mobile County Probate Court’s records of the campaign for 2014.
According to those same records, Hastie paid her $1,776 qualifying fee to the Mobile County Republican Executive Committee on the same day.
Bienville Rock Software’s website also primarily features a 2010 article from the Mobile Press-Register about improvements the company made in Hastie’s office.
Other than Crawford’s contact information, a link to that article is all that’s currently displayed on the website.
When asked to confirm the agency’s interest in the Mobile County License Commission, a spokesperson for the FBI said, “if charges are filed, they will eventually become a matter of public record.”
Multiple attempts to reach Hastie over the past several days to ask about the investigation and why Tucker’s firm was paid by Crawford’s company have been unsuccessful.
Documents relevant to this report
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