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Hartselle Enquirer

Hammett not at home on the stand

By By Bob Martin, The Alabama Scene
The trial in a Decatur federal courtroom of a Madison County legislator who is alleged to have accepted pay for work she didn’t do continues this week, but the opening round last week produced some interesting testimony.
When the attorney for Rep. Sue Schmitz, a former Toney school teacher, asked Speaker of the House Seth Hammett on the witness stand if he was scared Hammett answered this way: “I wouldn’t say I’m scared, but I wouldn’t say I’m comfortable.
Hammett and Schmitz are both Democrats. The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, Alice Martin, is a Republican appointee whose office is currently being investigated by the U. S. Department of Justice for selective political prosecution. It is at least the second time in the past several years that Martin’s office has been investigated by the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) for alleged misconduct.
The most recent OPR probe into Martin’s activities was confirmed to me by Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr. Among other matters, it involves the Don Siegelman case.
So with Martin, an avid hunter of Democrats, on the prowl it is little wonder that the Democratic speaker is not comfortable having Martin’s sharpshooters questioning him about how he helped Schmitz get a decent-paying job to supplement her part time legislative pay.
Martin found fertile ground in her investigations into parts of the two-year college mess which mostly involved Democrats, but when her police thugs stormed Schmitz’ house at 6 a.m. in the morning, pulling this diminutive 63-year-old grandmother out of the shower, bloodying her arms, cuffing her and spiriting her off for booking in Huntsville, I believe they went beyond the bounds of what is acceptable in America. What makes the arrest more incredible is that Schmitz’ lawyers had told Martin in advance that if charges were brought they would bring Schmitz in for booking, a practice used by most prosecutors, even for drug smugglers.
Schmitz may have had a cushy job to accommodate her legislative duties, but it was loosely defined as public relations, meaning she was to help secure funding for the two-year college system’s Community Intensive Training for Youth program. What better place to have someone in this position than a legislator?
If they are going to prosecute Schmitz for a crime because she failed to accurately fill in her time forms, where do we go next…to every state and federal job on the books? Is Martin now going to start prowling the offices of her own federal building in Birmingham to determine who is putting in a full eight hours and who’s not? If that’s the case the federal court fraud dockets are going to get very crowded.
Do not get me wrong. I do not approve of legislative cronyism or executive cronyism, which may be a worse problem, but a great many people who get government jobs get them because of friends in high places. That is a problem. But the larger problem is that a partisan law enforcement officer of one political party has vowed to get as many of the other party as she can, legal or illegal. That’s wrong and it is Martin’s policies that should be on trial.
That won’t happen. The best we can hope is that no matter who is elected President, our two U. S. Senators will not allow Martin to continue in office. I am told by sources that they have both indicated she will not return.
Jimmy Faulkner, an Alabama legend
James H. “Jimmy” Faulkner, 92, has died. The namesake of Faulkner State Community College in Bay Minette and Faulkner University in Montgomery was a leader in Alabama politics, publishing, business, and education for most of his life.
He was born in Lamar County, the son of a farmer and schoolteacher. In 1926, at age 20, after graduating from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, a young Faulkner moved to Bay Minette and purchased The Baldwin Times and published newspapers there until the mid-1970’s.
Over Faulkner’s lifetime he received many awards and honors. He was named “Person of the Century,” by the North Baldwin Chamber of Commerce in 2000 and awarded the Alabama Press Association’s “Lifetime Achievement Award” in 2003.
Faulkner ran for governor in 1954 and in 1958, seeking the office against two formidable foes, George Wallace and John Patterson. He ran a spirited race, but finished third. Faulkner told me once that one of his claims to fame was the he and George Wallace lost to the same man in the same race.
I was in high school in 1958, but I will never forget the new wrinkle Faulkner brought to Alabama gubernatorial politics.
Utilizing the relatively new campaign tool of television, Faulkner would buy time on TV stations across the state and invite viewers to call in with questions. He called these telethon-type programs “Talk-a-thons.” It was a good idea, but then Attorney General Patterson had too much momentum from start to finish.
Perhaps his failure at statewide politics provided Mr. Faulkner the energy and ability to do even greater things for his community and his state.
He is survived by his wife, Karlene Faulkner of Bay Minette; two sons, James H. Faulkner Jr. of Bay Minette and Dr. Henry Wade Faulkner of Mobile; and eight grandchildren.

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