Greene County, judge square off

Published 8:49 am Thursday, September 16, 2010

EUTAW – William L. Johnson, chairman of the Greene County Commission, fired back at Alabama Supreme Court Justice Glenn Murdock regarding his employment as the attorney for the Greene County Commission and his involvement of implementing gambling at Greenetrack.

“I do not know the exact details of conversations between the former Chair of the Greene County Commission Chip Beeker and, then, Attorney Murdock as they were mostly done without the knowledge of the entire Commission and specifically, me…,” he said.

Murdock has maintained that he was not instrumental in bringing electronic bingo to Greenetrack and said in a written statement last week that he only represented the Greene County Commission as an attorney in private practice in 1998-99.

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However, Johnson launched an independent investigation and outlined his findings. Among Johnson’s claims are:

1. On Jan. 27, 1999, Attorney Murdock wrote a letter to Commissioner Donald Means stating that the letter’s purpose was to provide him with a history and status report regarding the Greenetrack/Powerhouse negotiations.

Johnson said the letter is very detailed and goes so far as to refer to a written proposal that was prepared and forwarded to the Powerhouse attorneys on Jan. 8, 1999 outlining the general framework for an agreement which would “give Powerhouse the right to operate various gambling enterprises (other than pari-mutuel betting) on Greenetrack property.”

2. Johnson said the letter also referenced a report that was issued on Dec. 18, 1998 by the State Department of Examiners of Public Accounts as to its review of the compliance of Greene County with applicable laws and regulations during a three year period ending September 1997. Included in this letter was a brief note stated “there appears to be no legal authority for the county to own and operate such an enterprise [as Greenetrack].”

3. On April 20, 1999, Johnson claims Attorney Glenn Murdock wrote a letter to Ryan deGraffenried and Tommy Holley of Watson, deGraffenreid & Holley regarding the Greene County Commission’s position as the co-owner of the Greenetrack property and facility stating that the county had a rightful stake in any arrangement which would allow video gambling or other non-parimutuel gambling operations at the facility….and indicating that we were disappointed to learn that Powerhouse had proceeded with negotiations between itself and Greenetrack without involving the county.

“Additionally, I discovered a lease agreement prepared by Attorney Murdock disguising monthly profit payments as rent payments,” Johnson further claimed. “And, further research produced an April 1999 invoice specifically indicating that Murdock had reviewed gaming legislation.”

Johnson has further requested the release of Murdock’s billing records from Wallace, Jordan, Ratcliff & Brandt, the firm for which Murdock was employed during this period while working with the Greene County Commission.

The commission is a co-owner of the Greenetrack dog track and casino in Eutaw.

Murdock has come under fire, most notably from Greenetrack President Nat Winn, for siding against state gambling interests and Winn has suggested that Murdock’s rulings against Greenetrack were a measure of payback for the county who terminated his contract in 1999.