UPDATED WITH RECORDING
A candidate for the Alabama House of Representatives said he felt threatened to vacate his campaign or an economic development project for Enterprise could be killed.
Material obtained by The Enterprise Ledger includes phone conversations recorded between State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) and Republican Primary candidate Josh Pipkin of Enterprise.
The conversations occurred in June 2013. When Pipkin questions Moore if the “speaker” would really cost Enterprise the potential jobs the project would land, Moore said Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) is “furious” that a member of his own executive committee would be challenging Moore. Moore added, “Speaker Hubbard told me himself, ‘I will bring holy hell down on (Pipkin’). That was (sic) his exact words.”
At the center of the conversations are a projected 100 jobs at Enterprise Electronics Corp. as well as funding for a related program at Enterprise State Community College (ESCC).
Moore, in session at the Alabama State Legislature, responded to The Ledger Tuesday afternoon via text message.
“A long-running conversation has been taken out of context for obviously political purposes,” Moore texted. “The simple fact is that the funding for the project is in the budget at my request. With this appropriation and other efforts, I have continued to work to bring jobs and economic growth to our district.”
Among the materials obtained by The Ledger over a period of several months are two cell phone recordings and text messages from Moore to Pipkin. The recordings are from beginning to end on each call.
Pipkin confirmed the conversations were indeed between him and Moore. Alabama law only requires that one of the parties involved needs to know a conversation is being recorded.
Asked if he felt threatened to exit the race, Pipkin said, “Yes, but I don’t want to speak about what my opponent may or may not have done. All I can do is tell you what I’ll do if elected. I think the evidence speaks for itself.”
Moore gained his seat in the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 after beating embattled Democrat incumbent Terry Spicer. Much of Moore’s platform was on how he sought to end corruption in Montgomery.
As treasurer of the Coffee County Republican Party, a member of the Alabama Republican State Executive Committee, and a Gov. Robert Bentley-appointed member of the Statewide Textbook Committee, Pipkin is also the reigning Enterprise Man of the Year as chosen by the Pilot Club.
The first recorded cell phone conversation between Moore and Pipkin was June 22, 2013.
Pipkin expressed his concern early and often to Moore in the recordings about the Representative’s comments and those made by others regarding his candidacy and its possibility of hurting the deal that five months earlier appeared to be in place for Enterprise Electronics to move forward with its new building plans, which in turn would open up an unmanned aerial systems program developed by ESCC.
With the setup discussed by several local and state leaders – including Hubbard -- at the January 2013 meeting, ESCC was poised to get a new unmanned aerial systems program. Newspaper accounts of that meeting pictured Hubbard, Moore, State Senator Jimmy Holley, then-ESCC President Nancy Chandler, Enterprise Mayor Kenneth Boswell, Coffee County Commissioner Jimmy Jones and Wiregrass Economic Executive Director Jonathan Tullos were given a tour of the ESCC facilities.
The plan was for the program to be housed in a 44,000 square-foot facility currently occupied by Enterprise Electronics, an Australian-owned company. The state would purchase this building from the Enterprise Electronics for the new school, and with the proceeds from the state, the business would build a brand new facility to build its satellite radar systems.
In a text from Pipkin, Moore was asked if there were any other hiccups that could be fixed to get the ESCC/Enterprise Electronics deal done other than Pipkin’s candidacy, Moore replied, “I think that’s a major hiccup. We just about had the deal done before all this.”
When Pipkin asked Moore via text for an update on the status of the project, Moore replied, “I’m waiting to meet with the speaker… I don’t want to put the Australians (owners of Enterprise Electronics) off too long, so either way I’ve got to meet with Mike (Hubbard) this week. This deal is too important to our city. I know some think I have nothing to do with it but they are very wrong. Mike controls this deal and my relationship with him has everything to do with it. Relationships in politics are everything, and Mike is very loyal to his friends. He just is.”
Excerpts of a cell phone conversation from June 20, 2013:
PIPKIN: Are we going to lose a bunch of jobs if I do this?
MOORE: I’ve got to meet with the speaker the first part of the week, Josh, and he is furious. At the end of the day we were about to land a pretty good deal. My relationships in Montgomery bode very well for our community… These guys play dirty, man. And you don’t need to run right now. You’ve got some time. I don’t want to do this forever because of the nature of it. It takes a toll on people. It takes a toll on the family and it takes a toll on people…
PIPKIN: Would he really withhold that money because I was running?
MOORE: I’ll tell you what he told me. His text message to me was, ‘I’ll bring holy hell down on him.’ That was (sic) his exact words. I thought, crap, this is getting out of hand. We need to try to talk to Josh.
PIPKIN: I don’t care about me. I care about the community. Would he really jeopardize our community? I mean, would you let ‘em?
MOORE: Look here, I’m gonna tell you something, man, he has suffered so much that when it comes to these guys that have worked so hard to get in there, if we’re targets, I don’t know what he’ll do. I can’t tell you what the man will do.
PIPKIN: Letting jobs go to Oklahoma is crazy.
MOORE: I agree with that. I agree 100 percent. Yeah Josh, there’s a lot at stake, buddy. There’s a lot at stake.
PIPKIN: I hate the fact that he would dangle that. I think that’s dirty politics the Republicans try to stay away from.
MOORE: You don’t know what (Hubbard has) suffered through Josh.
PIPKIN: That doesn’t make it right though to jeopardize 100 jobs because some guy in Enterprise wants to run. You can’t tell him that’s wrong? That’s a hundred families. That’s gonna hurt.
PIPKIN: So, if I run y’all are gonna withhold that funding for the junior college?
MOORE: Y’all nothing. I’m gonna encourage the speaker to do the deal whether you run or not. I’m gonna try my dead-level best to get him to do it.
PIPKIN: Can you get validation from him that if I get out (the project’s funding is) gonna go through?
MOORE: If you’ll give me your word that you’ll get out, when I meet with him next week, I’ll tell him (you’re) gonna get out but we need this deal for (you) to stay out. But I need your word on that Josh and I’ll talk to the speaker… Hey Josh, you’re time will come, man. Your time will come and it will come with my endorsement and the Speaker’s endorsement. This is just not the time… It’s just making my job mighty hard about right now. Look, I’m gonna pray for you Josh. I want you to pray for me. I promise you I’m telling you the truth. I will help you down the road. This is just not the time. We’ve got a lot at stake right now, and y’all aren’t making my job any easier.
Moore asked Pipkin to think about his request for him to leave the race. They agreed to talk again in a few days. When Pipkin returns the call, he asks Moore for confirmation that Hubbard will kill the ESCC/Enterprise Electronics plan is he stays in the race.
Excerpts from a cell phone conversation from June 23, 2013:
Pipkin asks Moore for confirmation that if he exits the race the planned program at ESCC/Enterprise Electronics will be implemented.
MOORE: I’ll give you my word I’ll do the best I can and if it changes I’ll let you know. The Speaker ultimately has gotta make that decision. I think he was leaning in that direction until all of this happened. I feel like he’ll come around.
Within the last week, Enterprise Electronics Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Chris Goode, announced the company could be adding 20 more jobs soon to its Boll Weevil Circle manufacturing facility with another expansion.
The Ledger’s attempts to reach Hubbard Tuesday were unsuccessful.
In other news from the Alabama State Legislature during session earlier today, Rep. Greg Wren (R-Montgomery), 59, resigned from office pleading guilty to knowingly using his office for personal gain. Wren was given a 12-month suspended sentence and he was placed on probation for two years. He was further ordered to pay $24,000 in restitution to the State of Alabama. He was serving his fourth term in the Alabama House of Representatives.