BP money used to fight gambling

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM (WBRC) - Days before Governor Bob Riley left office, he sent almost $8 million in BP funds to the attorney general's office. Part of the money would go to cover litigation involved in fighting electronic bingo.

A memo from the Legislative Fiscal Office confirms the transfer.

"According to the Office of Attorney General, it plans to spend those funds in FY 2011 and FY 2012 on salary, benefits, and professional services expenses incurred for litigation related to the oil spill and gambling," the memo said.

The transfer occurred three days before Riley left office.

"Somewhere along the line, Bentley should say I'm governor of this state and I should have a say about the money being transferred," Birmingham Rep. John Rogers said.

Rogers sits on the legislature's budget writing committee. He questions spending BP money on anything other than oil spill litigation.

"That's ridiculous. What the people who suffered down there who need to get jobs. That is what the money is for. If we are going to litigate, litigate against BP." Rogers said.

The memo says the attorney general's office claims there are no restrictions on the funds use. Former Attorney General Troy King, who was attorney general at the time, knew nothing of the transfer. King has butted heads with Riley over the Illegal Gambling Task Force and suing BP.

King also questions BP money to fight gambling.

"The state of Alabama represented to BP that any money we received from them were going to mitigate and pay for damages that was done by them on Alabama's gulf coast," King said.

There is no word if any of the money would go to cover the cost of the task force raids.

Update: Late Wednesday afternoon, the Bentley administration also questioned the restrictions on the use of the BP money. Bentley's Communication Director Rebekah Caldwell Mason says Attorney General Luther Strange has been asked to return the $7.9 million and he has agreed to do so.

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