In the election of 2010 — the year of the GOP takeover of the Alabama Legislature — State Rep. Terry Spicer, an Elba Democrat, lost his seat to Barry Moore, a Republican closely aligned with then-GOP chairman Mike Hubbard. Unfortunately for Spicer, though, his seat in the Alabama House wasn’t even close to the only thing he lost with his electoral defeat in 2010.
Spicer, who eventually pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges, would later admit to having lost much more than his position in the 2010 election.
According to the Department of Justice, when Spicer lost his seat in the Legislature in November 2010, the lobbyists and businessmen bribing him stopped paying him the thousands of dollars in cash and gifts he’d been receiving during his years in office. And the DOJ would know. In 2012, when Spicer was convicted on those bribery charges, the federal agency released a statement outlining exactly what Spicer had lost, and what he would lose next.
When Spicer lost his seat, he also lost access to a continuous stream of cash payments from pro-gambling lobbyists, amounts ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 per month. He lost his ability to go on all-expenses-paid trips, like the $10,000 ski trip he admitted having received. He lost access to the donors who had given $20,000 to his campaign, and he lost free concert tickets — more than $22,500 worth, according to the Justice Department. The bigger deal, though, would be what Spicer would lose next: 57 months of his life in a federal penitentiary in Illinois.
So today, years later, after doing his time behind bars and being released in October, Terry Spicer must feel like he’s lost enough. Because now, the convicted felon and former Alabama House Representative has a new state job: as a cashier at an east Dothan ABC store, bringing him one step closer to drawing the taxpayer-funded pension the Elba Democrat thought he’d have to wait nearly a decade to receive. He already lost his bribe money; he doesn’t plan on waiting for his pension.
To begin drawing his state pension, Spicer, who aside from his time accepting bribes in the Legislature also worked for the two-year college system and as Elba City Schools superintendent, must either work for the state of Alabama for a total of 25 years or wait until he turns 60. Now 52, he apparently doesn’t want to wait for the latter.
ABC Board lawyer Bob Martin confirmed that Mac Gipson, the board’s administrator, gave Spicer a job after being asked by a mutual friend to give him a shot.
“I think [Gipson] saw it as giving him a second chance,” Martin told the Cullman Times, confirming Spicer’s journey from the Legislature to the liquor store.
Given his new job, which was also confirmed by the Retirement Systems of Alabama, Spicer will only need to work 16 months at ABC to receive his full state pension, for which he’d otherwise have had to wait more than seven years.
On the surface, it seems a little sadistic to begrudge Spicer his liquor store job, stocking shelves and counting change for the more inebriated of those he’d pretended to represent. Spicer may have accepted bribes — over and over again, granted — but he did serve his time, and a lot of it.
But look a little deeper. As a convicted felon, Spicer had to disclose that status to ABC as his potential employer. How many other convicted felons is the state hiring each year to work in ABC stores across Alabama? How many times has the head of the ABC Board personally reached a hand out to give a “second chance” to a felon because of a mutual friend?
Terry Spicer already had his second chance — after he’d accepted the first bribe. But then he accepted the second, and the third and the fourth. Spicer deserved to be convicted. He deserved to go to prison. He may even deserve his pension — but he shouldn’t get special treatment, so he doesn’t deserve that pension now.
And he may not get it. Alabama House Rep. Jim Patterson, a Republican, made his opinion of the situation known as soon as the news of Spicer’s new job broke.
“This must be stopped,” Patterson said of Spicer’s move. “This man should not get a $50,000 pension. I am calling the governor on Monday and demanding an investigation. This is good-old-boy politics, and I am going to do my best to stop this!”
Indeed, Montgomery has the power to do just that: stop Spicer’s pension. The Legislature, which can pass bills regulating the state’s retirement program, could easily ban those convicted of betraying the public trust — through corruption, bribery or other malfeasance — from receiving state pensions, at the very least in future cases. And they should.
Those who violate the public’s trust shouldn’t be able to trust the public, even when it comes to their retirement. If we can’t trust you, you can’t trust us — in the Legislature or the liquor store.