BIRMINGHAM, AL (WSFA) - Gov. Kay Ivey's campaign is reacting after one of her opponents in the GOP primary race called a news conference Tuesday morning and slammed her for "betray[ing]" the people of Alabama and demanding an apology.
The issue? Evangelist turned gubernatorial candidate Scott Dawson is taking issue with where some grant money from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, or ADECA, was sent. The $800,000 Dawson is referring to was awarded to Free2Be, a nonprofit that recently closed its doors.
Free2Be provided counseling to youth bullied because of their sexual orientation. Dawson called the organization an LBGTQ "activist" organization that should not have been given the money and said Ivey "betrayed" the people of Alabama by awarding the funding.
Ivey, who was attending a chamber of commerce event in Tuscaloosa, was asked by media if she was upset about Dawson's accusations. She laughed and said, "Do I look upset?" The governor went on, "He's all over the board, he's not getting any traction, he's low in the polls, he's three weeks away from the election," she said shaking her head. "He's getting desperate."
Dawson said the grant payments started during the Bentley administration, a time in which Ivey was the lieutenant governor. He's calling on the attorney general's office to investigate the grant.
Dawson said he doesn't see how the state can afford an $800,000 grant when there are other pressing state issues such as budgets and prisons and added that his opposition was not about one worldview but about putting one worldview over another.
Dawson said he doesn't want anyone to be bullied, pointing to his own childhood in which he was bullied for a weight problem. He said his problem is in the use of state taxpayer funds and that if those funds were given to a ministry it would have had a lot of conditions attached to it.
The Ivey campaign pushed back against Dawson's accusations, calling them "utter nonsense" and saying Dawson "is intentionally misleading the public for political gain."
"According to ADECA's website, funding from Victims of Crime Act Victim Assistance Grant Program (funded by DOJ) is made up entirely of Federal criminal fines, forfeitures and special assessments – not taxpayer revenues – which, by statute, are to be used exclusively to support victim services," the Ivey campaign said.
The Ivey camp added that "a quick Google search would have revealed the facts for Dawson" and confirmed the state is currently auditing and investigating Free2Be.
According to ADECA documents, Free2Be operated locations in Huntsville, Birmingham, Florence, Montgomery, and Mobile.
The governor's office later released a statement regarding the investigation into Free2Be by ADECA stating that an on-site compliance monitoring visit was planned for March at the Huntsville office, but that a desk review "discovered that the organization has an outstanding federal debt with the IRS for payroll taxes." Ivey's office went on to say that Free2Be "was placed on high risk status on March 29, 2018, and the agency's ability to draw grant funds was suspended."
ADECA was to conduct a monitoring and financial audit on May 21. On May 13, a post was made to the organization's Birmingham location's Facebook page stating all locations are closed.