Former state lawmaker Oliver Robinson has agreed to plead guilty on federal charges of conspiracy, bribery, tax evasion and wire fraud.
Indictments announced Thursday allege Robinson received thousands of dollars from ABC Coke and the Birmingham law firm Balch & Bingham. In return, prosecutors say Robinson used his influence to fight expanding the North Birmingham 35th Avenue Superfund Site to include Tarrant and Inglenook.
Expansion of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund site could potentially have cost millions in clean-up costs for ABC Coke, a division of Drummond Company. The company, located in Tarrant, has been identified as possibly being responsible for pollution in the area. Balch & Bingham represented ABC Coke and Drummond.
The law firm paid $360,000 to Oliver Robinson’s foundation between 2015 and 2016, according to the indictments.
As part of the plan, prosecutors say Robinson advised residents of North Birmingham and public officials to oppose the EPA’s actions.
Prosecutors say Robinson also was given the task of appearing before one of the state’s environmental policy agencies – the Alabama Environmental Management Commission – to oppose the Superfund proposals. In one appearance before the AEMC, Robinson said he was “really here today to try to protect the residents of North Birmingham.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Robert O. Posey says Robinson’s case gets at the heart of public corruption in Alabama.
“This is an example of a well-funded public interest who offered an irresistible inducement to a public official,” Posey says. “In exchange, the public official represented the interest of those who were paying him, rather than the interests of his community and constituents here in Birmingham.”
Only about two dozen residents in Tarrant and Inglenook allowed testing of their soil for Superfund consideration. A 2016 EPA report said contamination levels in Tarrant and Inglenook showed no need for EPA intervention.
No sentence has been recommended for Robinson, a Democrat who grew to become a powerful representative in his 18 years in the Alabama House. He served District 58 and was vice chairman of the Jefferson County Legislative Delegation before his abrupt resignation in November 2016.
At the time, Robinson said he was leaving to avoid a conflict of interest because his daughter was taking a position as a legislative liaison in then-Gov. Robert Bentley’s administration.
Robinson will face arraignment on July 13. He has agreed to not seek public office again and to pay restitution and forfeiture, prosecutors say.
His attorneys released this statement Thursday afternoon, according to Al.com.
“Oliver is deeply aware that he has let down the public, his constituents and his family as it relates to certain decisions he made that he deeply regrets. Entering into a plea agreement with the government represents the clearest evidence that he is taking complete responsibility for his mistakes and misjudgments. Since the investigation unfolded, He has been, and intends to remain, faithful to the truth as he moves forward and puts the past behind him. He offers no excuse- just deep remorse- for his past actions.”
Prosecutors say Robinson is cooperating as the investigation continues. More indictments are possible.