EPA Southeast Administrator, Former ADEM Commissioner Indicted on State Ethics Charges

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Alabama Ethics Commission Seal

Source: Alabama Ethics Commission

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By Robert Carter

A former director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, who’s now the regional administrator for the EPA, has been indicted on state ethics charges related to the case in which an executive of Drummond Corporation and a partner in the Balch and Bingham law firm were convicted earlier this year.

Onis “Trey” Glenn III, who directed ADEM from 2005 to 2009 and later was appointed by President Donald Trump to head the EPA in the southeastern states, was indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury of multiple charges sought by the Alabama Ethics Commission.

In addition, Scott Phillips, who was once an Alabama Environmental Management commissioner and later a business partner with Glenn, also was indicted on multiple ethics charges.

As of Tuesday evening, the indictment documents had not been filed on Alacourt, the state’s online court filing system, so neither the exact number of counts nor the details of each count can be independently verified. However, the Ethics Commission released a brief statement with some details, confirming that the indictment — handed down by the grand jury Friday — was for “use of office for personal gain,” “soliciting and/or receiving a ‘thing of value’ from a principal, lobbyist or subordinate of a lobbyist,” and receiving money in addition to that received in one’s official capacity.”

Glenn released a statement that was reported on the Associated Press broadcast wires.

“My family and I continue to appreciate the overwhelming support from our friends and the community. The charges against me are totally unfounded, and will be vigorously defended. I am innocent and expect to be fully vindicated,” Glenn’s statement said.

Both Glenn and Phillips testified in the federal trial of Drummond Company vice president David Roberson and Balch and Bingham partner Joel Gilbert. Roberson and Gilbert were convicted of bribing then-state Rep. Oliver Robinson to use his influence in fighting an EPA-forced cleanup of toxic waste in Birmingham.

Exhibits in that trial showed that Glenn and Phillips, as part of a consulting firm they formed after Glenn left ADEM, worked with Balch and Bingham to formulate a strategy to thwart the EPA efforts in North Birmingham.

Current ADEM Director Lance LeFleur, who works through Glenn at the federal Environmental Protection Agency, told BirminghamWatch that this indictment is “a pretty serious matter.”

“I would be very disappointed if either Scott Phillips or Trey was found to have engaged in any illegal or unethical behavior. Clearly I would be disappointed in that,” LeFleur said. “I don’t know what the grand jury or Ethics Commission might have in the way of evidence they’ve looked at. I’m not aware of anything that would rise to an ethics violation or illegal activity on either one of their parts. I’d be deeply disappointed if that proved to be the case.”

Environmental groups opposed Glenn’s appointment to the EPA post and requested that he recuse himself from any involvement with the North Birmingham case. Glenn agreed to do so for a year but not permanently, as the groups had sought.

“These indictments today reinforce what we already know: We need reform and we need it now,” said Michael Hansen, executive director of the environmental advocacy group Gasp, in a statement posted Tuesday on the organization’s website.

“For far too long, leaders in Alabama have put corporate profits ahead of people.” He says. “We demand that corruption be rooted out and reforms enacted to protect our health and our environment and to ensure environmental justice is a reality for every single Alabamian.”

Glenn has had issues with accusations of ethics violations in the past. A complaint filed in 2007, while he was running ADEM, accused Glenn of accepting family trips to Walt Disney World and Hilton Head, South Carolina, while he ran the state Office of Water Resources. The accusation was that the trips were paid for by Malcolm Pirnie, a public relations firm. Phillips was head of the firm at the time as well as the chairman of the Environmental Management Commission. The Ethics Commission sent charges against Glenn to a grand jury in Montgomery, which declined to indict him.

Glenn stepped down from the position in 2009 after the charges were resolved. He then went into partnership with Phillips and was also a lobbyist for the Business Council of Alabama.

Hank Black contributed to this report.

(Correction:  The business partner of Onis “Trey” Glenn III is Scott Phillips.  Phillips was incorrectly referred to as “Stephens” in some editions of this report.)

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