When Hoover Republican Dom Gentile dropped out of Alabama’s U.S. Senate primary, he promptly endorsed Rep. Mo Brooks.
“It’s very rare to have a politician who is very smart, who is selfless and who does the right things,” Gentile said in July. “A good man, a family man, who’s never had an ethics complaint.”
A slightly deeper dive into the past of the man who wants to be Alabama’s U.S. Senator proves maybe Gentile should have never said “never.”
As with many things with Brooks, the truth – particularly about ethics — is not so cut-and-dry.
In October 1992, the Huntsville Times wrote a series of pieces profiling Brooks, who was serving as Madison County district attorney at the time. Mostly written by reporter John Anderson, the Times series suggests there were several instances of questionable ethics by Brooks, including choosing jurors based on ZIP codes, pressuring colleagues for support, rainy day funds and mixing politics with his job.
“Fairly or unfairly, Brooks began the district attorney’s job with a reputation as a political animal — a reputation he’s yet to live down,” Anderson wrote. “One story making the rounds at the Courthouse has it that Brooks, while trying a drug case … chose jurors based in part on their ZIP codes with the expectation that jurors from his former House district would help him win a conviction. “
During the same period, Linda Coats, Brooks’ former assistant DA, had accused Brooks of demanding “that his staff take sides in his [District Attorney] race.”
“He would say that the office is divided into `Mo-ites’ and `Morganites’ [referring to Democratic opponent Tom Morgan]. He told me I was a `Mo-ite’” Coats told the Times. “He said that people who stand in the middle of the road and remain neutral are going to get hit by both sides.’”
Coats originally supported Brooks – who quickly earned a reputation for playing “hard ball” — but soon became resentful of attempts to ‘manipulate’ her into supporting him, feeling that she would not have a job if he did not win the general election.
Brooks chalked Coates’ claims to her being miserable “because she had no friends in the D.A.’s office.”
Nevertheless, both Coats and another assistant DA, William Davis Lawley Jr., resigned in Sept. 1992, saying they could “no longer work for Brooks.” In leaving, Lawley noted that he “didn’t like the priorities down there.”
By then, however, more stories of dubious ethics were coming out of the office of the man who would later serve four terms in the U.S. House: Mixing politics with work through tactics such as handing out campaign literature to grand jurors during in proceedings.
One grand jury member, who asked not to be identified, told the Times that Brooks’ campaigning among grand jurors “leans toward the unethical because we were there to work. He had a captive audience and I think that was unfair.’”
In 1992, Brooks would indeed lose that first bid for Madison County district attorney (he was appointed in 1991) to Morgan. But before his successor could take office, the Huntsville Times learned that Brooks offered each of his attorneys and two other state employees a parting gift: A $3,000 raise just before Christmas.
When Huntsville Times reporter Patricia Dedrick asked Brooks if the raises were a “final jab” at Morgan, he replied: “Oh, Lord, no.”
But Dedrick also wrote: “Morgan is ‘going to have so much money he’s going to have a hard time spending it,’ [Brooks] said. Money for the raises, which amounts to $51,000 a year, will come in part from an office ‘rainy day’ fund totaling more than $200,000.”
In addition, Morgan noted that such raises were certainly not typical: “I have never gotten $3,000, I don’t think anybody ever got that kind of raise. $1,500 and $2,000 is the most anybody has ever gotten.”
While these episodes may be buried in the past — pressuring colleagues, offering big raises, mixing work and politics – they still raise just enough questions for someone seeking to be Alabama’s next U.S. Senator.