MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) – Prattville Senator Bryan Taylor clarified his role in the law firm Capell and Howard Friday.
"I work in private practice for that law firm and handle primarily private sector cases," Taylor, (R – Prattville).
Taylor initially came under scrutiny when his came up during Thursday's Joint Contract Review Committee met to discuss recent state deals since the state's new ethics laws took effect in December. During the meeting the issue of a Department of Corrections contract worth $100,000 awarded to Taylor's employer came up.
Rep. Jeremy Oden, (R – Vinemont) brought up the fact that Taylor worked for Capell and Howard, the law firm handling the contract.
"I just don't want to see a lawmaker get into trouble for doing something possibly unethical" Oden said.
As a matter of fact, Sen. Taylor helped to draft several of the bills passed during the Special Session. Before being elected to the legislature in November 2010, he had worked as a policy adviser for then Governor Bob Riley.
"I wasn't singling out Sen. Taylor" Rep. Oden said. "It was more for everyone in the state house that I brought it up."
Taylor said he understood the concern, acknowledging the fact that his law firm had a history of working with the state.
"I think some committee members just had some questions about what was the extent of my involvement with that contract and I've assured them now that I did not know about that contract" Taylor said. "I don't want to know about that contract."
The state's ethics commission has been consulted by lawmakers and lobbyists for weeks asking for clarification about the new ethics laws. Executive Director Jim Sumner said the commission has had a longstanding policy when it comes to any lawmakers working for a law firm.
"As long as that member is not using their position to drive business toward the law firm and the law firm is not in turn using that individual to gain an advantage then there is no conflict" Sumner said.
Rep. Oden from Vinemont said he implored the committee that examines state contracts to get an advisory opinion from either the ethics commission or the attorney general about the scope of the law prohibiting lawmakers from receiving two government paychecks.
Sumner with the Ethics Commission said the onus would really be on the attorney general's office because it has been tasked with enforcing the new laws.
According to Sen. Taylor, he has a "Chinese Wall" of barriers surrounding his desk from anyone who would be involved in a state contract.
"We have a very strict policy at my firm that I will not be doing any state work" Taylor said.
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