Sunday, April 24, 2011

If Elvis had lived, would his hair look like...Milton McGregor's?


The Day Lanny Young 
Called Milton McGregor, "Elvis"

            Recently I've been organizing my "Siegelman files" for storage, and while doing, came across this record from the 2006 trial that I present here in honor of Milton McGregor. He's been in the news a whole bunch the past year, and appears to only now be getting warmed up. A statute of McGregor should be erected in front of the Alabama Public Corruption Hall of Fame. No, there is not such a thing, but should one be built, I want credit for the idea.

           The record below is a transcript of a taped July 2000 phone call between  Waste Management's straw man landfill developer Clayton "Lanny" Young and Bill Blount, the investment banker (both would be featured in the aforementioned Hall). Blount, like Young, was involved in the corruption-infested if short-lived G.H. Construction warehouse deal. Young later went to prison for crimes related to the G.H. Construction project. Blount is now in federal prison for bribing former Birmingham mayor Larry Langford.
            The tape was introduced as evidence in the 2006 trial, as was a transcript of it My copy of the transcript is in bad shape, but is readable.
           First, some background on the transcript. Young testified that he hadn't intended to tape Blount. He'd set up a taping system at the urging of his lawyer, to catch people trying to extort him regarding his efforts to win a permit to build a landfill in Lowndes County. Had he won the permit, Young was going to sell it to Waste Management, and stood to make as much as $10 million on the deal.
        Prosecutors presented the tape to bolster their case against Paul Hamrick, Siegelman's former chief of staff and, at trial, the ex-governor's co-defendant. Young, it turned out, had been paid $35,000 by Blount. Young said it was to help to land state bond business and funding for projects Blount was involved in. That's the subject of the first pages of the transcript.
            I found the tape interesting because it captured two politically connected and less than upstanding dudes chatting away, unguardedly, about winning state business and other matters. The best bit is at the end, when Blount tells Young that McGregor's efforts to build a landfill in Macon County were on the front of that day's Montgomery Advertiser.
              In, "The Governor of Goat Hill," I contrasted -- as had stories at the time -- the public statements by the Siegelman administration about their friend Lanny's landfill efforts in Lowndes County and those by McGregor in nearby Macon County.
        This, from the book, and after that, pictures of Blount and Young, and then the transcript, which has the notes and scratch I made on it after I acquired it from the court records.
             In August 2000 the Associated Press published two stories reporting the governor's contrasting positions on two proposed landfills, one sought by Lanny, the other by dog track magnate Milton McGregor.
            Siegelman came out against the McGregor site days before the Macon County Commission was to vote on it. He pledged to "fight a landfill that is a magnet for the nation's trash."
        Local black leaders enlisted Jesse Jackson to oppose the site on grounds that it was an example of environmental racism.
            After the county's vote, Siegelman sent a statement praising the decision. "Today, you are drawing a line in the sand. You are saying, 'Enough is enough. You are saying, 'Macon County will not become the pay toilet of America.'
            A second AP story added another wrinkle. It posed the question: Why had the governor become involved in Macon County but stayed out of a near identical landfill battle in Lowndes County?
            Like Macon County, Lowndes is poor, rural and majority black. The piece reported Young's support of Siegelman and his friendship with Hamrick. The chief of staff said the difference was that the Macon County site would take garbage from out of state, whereas the Lowndes project would not.
            "We typically wouldn't  and haven't gotten involved (in supporting or opposing landfill projects)," Hamrick said.
            Some black leaders in Lowndes County, as with Macon County, opposed the landfill. Jesse Jackson came to Lowndes County as well, and decried the proposed landfill's proximity to the historic Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights trail.
            Macon County borders Montgomery County to the east and Lowndes to the west.
           Had McGregor won a permit, his site would surely have competed against Young's.
           Had it been built first, it might well have ended Waste Management's interest in the Lowndes project -- a decision that would have been financially ruinous for Lanny.
       At trial, prosecutors introduced a recorded telephone conversation between Lanny and investment banker Bill Blount, which Lanny had made, he said by accident, but turned over to the government.
            The two are heard making fun of McGregor by calling him Elvis, a reference to the dog-track owner's famous bouffant hairdo. Young told Blount that McGregor -- keenly aware of the relationship between Lanny and Hamrick -- called Siegelman's
chief of staff to promise that his landfill in Macon County wouldn't compete with Lanny's landfill in Lowndes County.
            Said Young, in an apparent joke: "I told Paul, I said, 'You tell Elvis that I don't give a shit what he does over there. I'm trying to get my dog track and casinos built in Lowndes County right now.
            McGregor's  efforts (by calling Hamrick) did no good, as the administration lent its weight against his landfill and helped kill it.

Bill Blount

Lanny Young

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