Ethics questions abound, who will investigate?


As Alabama legislators struggle over budgets for the state’s environmental agency, one lawmaker appears to have a tough time keeping his hands clean. Almost as questionable however are the actions of those who identified and knew the possible wrong doing and did nothing.

It’s uncertain who, if anyone, will step up to investigate both issues but it’s clear someone needs to.

Last week, Alabama Today reported on the fight over Alabama Department of Environmental Management’s (ADEM) budget between the agency and the Legislature. Shortly thereafter, ALToday received a copy of a letter purportedly written by ADEM Director Lance LeFleur and hand-delivered to Senator Arthur Orr in which he accuses Representative Steve Clouse of protecting the Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund (UST Trust Fund) for his own personal gain. In the letter he says, “It is clear the UST Fund ‘sacred cow’ is for the benefit of Clouse’s family business. This is outrageous.”

The letter goes on to say, “Rep Clouse did not reach out to us before submitting the amended budget…”

ALToday spoke to ADEM Director LeFleur about ADEM’s budget and recent fee increases as well as the authenticity of the letter. He said that he would “reserve comment on the letter” until he could see it, however he added that he wrote several letters.

In the interview, LeFleur echoed all of the same sentiments about the “sacred cow” restrictions noted in the letter and when asked about specific points made in the letter went on to describe in detail the what was meant by them. He used the same language and in several instances verbatim word choice.

This letter prompts five questions:

  1. Why didn’t LeFleur file a formal ethics complaint against Clouse?
  2. Why didn’t Senator Arthur Orr take LeFleur’s ethics questions to the ethics commission?
  3. Did Representative Clouse indeed propose language that would benefit his family business?
  4. Why didn’t LeFleur inform the Environmental Management Commission (EMC) in one of his regular memos or in his most recent report to them?
  5. What is the position EMC on the letter and Director LeFleur’s actions or inactions related to the ethical dilemmas it calls into question?

You can read the letter here: LeFleur_Orr_Letter and a copy of Director LeFleur’s comments at the last EMC meeting (provided by the director via email) here.


To read Rep. Steve Clouse’s response to this story please visit: Rep. Steve Clouse disputes Lance LeFleur allegations with facts


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