New ethics laws cause headaches for Montgomery Biscuits' owners

Alabama's tough ethics laws may cause the owners of the Montgomery Biscuits to re-think staying in Montgomery.

That's because of restrictions on gifts to public employees. Any person that works for the state, an Alabama county or city is forbidden from receiving anything of value from another person.  It includes tickets to sporting events.

Owners of the Montgomery Biscuits say it limits their season ticket holders from giving tickets away to people who happen to hold public jobs--even teachers and policemen for instance.

But. there's no denying the impact of Montgomery Biscuits baseball.

"That gives us a lot of credibility and it brings a lot of people into Montgomery," says Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange.

It's also one motivation for Bob Parker opening his Dreamland Barbeque restaurant.

"The Biscuits were probably the second reason we came here."

Montgomery Biscuits' owner Sherrie Myers worries about season ticket sales.

"We've already had calls and people saying look, 'I don't think I'll be able to use all my tickets because I can't invite people out the way I used to,'" says Myers.

"If the Biscuits suffer financially it would be a detriment to all of us," adds Parker.

State Senator Bryan Taylor sponsored the ethics legislation. He says it all comes down to motive.

"If basically you're trying to entertain a public official or public employee and you're seeking official action, that's when your radar should go off."

Taylor says you can give a ticket to a friend who happens to be a public employee as long as you're not trying to influence them politically.

"If you have a longstanding friendship with somebody, there's an exception for that. We wanted to be reasonable," adds Taylor.

But, Biscuits owners believe some customers are still confused.

"The restriction is so severe, they're just not going to deal with the hassle and absolutely they don't want to risk any sort of violation," says Myers.

She believes if revenues aren't strong next year, investors might consider selling the team.

Undaunted, Mayor Todd Strange is looking on the bright side.

"I think that's really an unknown and I don't know that we'll even be close to that for even the next year or 18 months."

Both Senator Taylor and the head of the Alabama Ethics Commission say they're willing to talk about making exceptions for the Biscuits and the three other AA baseball teams in Alabama--the Huntsville Stars, Birmingham Barons, and Mobile Bay Bears.

Both admit they want to be careful to not make too many exceptions and undue the work that was done to pass the ethics laws.

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