Siegleman gets picked off first by tape-toting judge

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 19, 2000

There is an old expression from the world of sports that most of you understand: "He got caught leaning off first base."

Gov. Don Siegelman got caught leaning off first base last week in a verbal exchange with Judge Roy Moore of Gadsden, and in the process took a severe editorial pounding.

Judge Moore, he of Ten Commandment's fame, accused Siegelman of urging members of the judiciary to wine-and-dine newspaper editors in hopes of getting a favorable spin on an outlandish judicial pay raise last summer.

There is nothing especially shocking about a politician trying to butter up the press, but Siegelman made the mistake of denying it. It ain't so, he said. That's when he got picked off base.

Judge Moore had tape-recorded the governor's phone call. It left no doubt that what Moore had said was true. Worse, it left no doubt that Siegelman's denial was false.

Of all the shots taken at Siegelman the best was an editorial cartoon in the Birmingham News. It showed a "Clinton-like" Siegelman pointing his finger at the TV camera and declaring "I did not have phone relations with those judges."

Rep. Greg Wrenn, R-Montgomery, has given new meaning to the age-old advice that if at first you don't succeed, try and try again.

In Wrenn's case, you could use the word "try" eight times. On seven previous occasions Rep. Wrenn has sponsored a very sensible bill which would establish a "rainy day" fund in the State General Fund.

He proposed that each year $5 million be set aside to be used in case of some financial crisis in the General Fund, and it has crises more often than not. In seven consecutive legislative sessions he introduced the bill, got it passed by the House only

to see it die in the Senate.

Ironically some of those deaths

occurred while Don Siegelman presided over the Senate as lieutenant governor.

Siegelman never lifted his gavel to come to the aid of the bill.

However,Siegelman has now become a champion of the legislation. He gave it his blessing in his State of the State address, and the Wrenn bill…if you will pardon the pun…is flying through the Legislature.

Look for something close to World War III to erupt over legislation which would create a five-member commission to establish salaries for state officials, including members of the Legislature.

While sponsors insist it is intended simply to bring some

semblance of balance and fairness to salaries…for example, hundreds of state officials and state employees make far more than the governor…opponents say it is nothing but a back-door way to provide huge raises for legislators.

Whatever else the legislation might do, it will not reduce any salaries.

Mention was made before of the countless judgeships up for grabs in the upcoming 2000 election, and most of the attention will be focused on an unprecedented battle for chief justice of the State Supreme Court.

Incumbemt Republican Chief Justice Perry O. Hooper Sr. must step down because he has exceeded the 70-year-old age limit and no less than five of his GOP colleagues hope to succeed him.

They include the aforementioned Judge Roy Moore as well as Criminal Appeals Court Judge Pam Baschab, Pelham attorney Harry Lyon, Supreme Court Justice Harold See and Birmingham Circuit Judge Wayne Thorn.

Thus far only one Democrat has announced for the top court seat-Civil Appeals Court Judge Sharon Yates.