Ala. AG announces felony ethics convictions of 2 former contractors with BWWB

Ala. AG announces felony ethics convictions of 2 former contractors with BWWB
The nine BWWB employees fired in August have filed a lawsuit seeking their jobs back, plus punitive damages. Source: WBRC video

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - UPDATE: Attorney General Steve Marshall announced the felony ethics convictions of two former contractors with the Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB). Jerry DeWayne Jones and Terry Lee Williams pleaded guilty Friday morning in Jefferson County Circuit Court to offering or giving anything to a public official for the purpose of corruptly influencing official action.

“The people of Alabama deserve to have confidence that those who do business with public entities are operating with integrity and merit, and not illegally gaining this privilege through corrupt payments,” said Attorney General Marshall. “These convictions should send a strong message that those who betray the public trust will be called to account for their crimes and face serious consequences.”

Jones and Williams face penalties of two to 20 years imprisonment and fines of up to $30,000 for the ethics convictions, which are class B felonies. Jefferson County Circuit Judge Clyde Jones set sentencing hearings for both defendants for 9:30 a.m. on March 19.

Marshall’s Special Prosecutions Division presented evidence to a Jefferson County special grand jury, resulting in the indictments of Jones and Williams in December 2017. BWWB Chairwoman Sherry Lewis, also indicted, was convicted in October 2019 on felony ethics charges.

Jones, 57, of Birmingham, previously served as a vice president of Arcadis, U.S., Inc., an international engineering and consulting firm, and he was the principal-in-charge for Arcadis’s contract with the BWWB. Williams, 66, of Mount Vernon, was the head of Global Solutions, International (GSI), a subcontractor for Arcadis.

As part of Jones’ plea agreement, he acknowledged that if his case went to trial the State would have sufficient evidence that he introduced Williams to Sherry Lewis’ son Joseph Lewis, and that he and Williams discussed GSI hiring Joseph Lewis. Both defendants acknowledged that GSI did in fact hire Joseph Lewis to develop a website, that he never created or consulted on a website, and that he was nevertheless paid more than $25,000 for employment that resulted in little or no work product over about 18 months. Jones acknowledged that during this timeframe, Sherry Lewis voted multiple times to provide Arcadis with BWWB contracts.

In addition, Jones acknowledged that he paid for a $700 meal in Chicago where a conference was being held, giving Joseph Lewis a $600 check and cash even though Jones did not participate in the meal. Jones later submitted an expense report to Arcadis that suggested that he participated in the $700 meal. Williams acknowledged writing checks to Joseph Lewis and depositing money directly into his bank account on multiple occasions. Furthermore, Jones acknowledged that one of the reasons he provided these things to Sherry Lewis and her son was to ensure that Arcadis remained the independent engineer for the BWWB.

The defendants previously were convicted of related federal charges. In July 2020, Jones and Williams pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. As part of these plea agreements, Jones and Williams acknowledged their participation in a false-invoice scheme that lasted more than two years and defrauded the BWWB of more than $250,000.

The Office of the Attorney General in Alabama has responded to the Birmingham Water Works Board member and former chair Sherry Lewis’s request to dismiss the ethics violations case against her.

On April 13, 2018, Lewis filed a motion to dismiss or provide more clarity on the indictment and charges against her.

The motion says, in part, the state's case is "bare bones" and it doesn't specify the day, month, or even year of her alleged misconduct.

The motion also indicates Lewis and her co-defendants, Jerry Jones and Terry Williams, could become victims of double jeopardy because Lewis hasn't been informed of the nature and cause of the accusations against her.

You can read Lewis' entire motion below:

On May 31, the state responded saying the evidence laid out in the indictment is constitutionally sufficient and the concerns about double jeopardy are premature.

The state says the indictment coupled with their discovery will eliminate any issues regarding double jeopardy.

You can read the state's entire response below:

In December 2017, Lewis, Jones, and Williams were indicted on multiple counts of violating state ethics laws.

The indictment alleges Lewis used her position as Chair of the BWWB to obtain money, a no-show job for a family member, free meals, and other improper benefits.

Court records say Lewis got those things from Jones, a former Vice President of Arcadis U.S. Inc, an engineering firm that did business with BWWB, and Williams, an Arcadis subcontractor who worked with Global Solutions, LLC that did work on BWWB projects.

Court records go on to say Jones and Williams hired Lewis's son, Joseph Lewis, to work on GSI's website, but he never produced any work.

Prosecutors believe Joseph Lewis would take his paycheck and deposit it in his mother's account and she would turn around and spend the money on her son's rent and her personal expenses.

Lewis' attorneys have denied all the charges against her and said she is innocent and looking forward to her day in court to confront the prosecution's accusations.

If convicted, Lewis, Jones, and Williams could face a maximum of 20 years in prison and fines of $30,000 for each of the counts in the indictments.

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