A senior Environmental Protection Agency administrator has been indicted by an Alabama grand jury on charges he conspired to violate ethics laws in connection with a political bribery scandal linked to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The Alabama Ethics Commission announced that a grand jury indicted Onis “Trey” Glenn, the EPA official responsible for nine Southern states, and his former business partner, Willie Scott Phillips, on a variety of state ethics charges.
The charges include inappropriate solicitation or receiving of money or other items of value, and allegations that Phillips violated rules against the ‘use of office for personal gain.’ Glenn was indicted separately from Phillips on multiple counts of conspiracy or complicity.
Glenn, was a registered lobbyist for the Business Council of Alabama – which has fought hard against pesky things like cleaning up pollution in poor neighborhoods – when the Trump administration tapped him to run the EPA in nine Southern states.
He is charged with taking money from lobbyists during his time as director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
The state ethics law prohibits officials from using their office for personal financial gain and from soliciting or receiving money or other things of value.
Glenn worked for nearly five years as director of Alabama’s environment department — but his tenure was plagued by numerous ethics investigations.
Glenn and Phillip allegedly aided an effort by the Drummond Coal company to block an EPA cleanup of the 35th Avenue section of north Birmingham — an impoverished, predominently African-American neighborhood that suffered decades of pollution from local industrial sites.
During the Obama administration, the EPA office now supervised by Glenn tried to hold Drummond and other Alabama companies responsible for the pollution, but state officials sought to block federal enforcement. The campaign to stop the EPA’s cleanup efforts was orchestrated by Drummond and its powerful Birmingham law firm, Balch & Bingham.
The company enlisted then-Senator Jeff Sessions, whose legislative staff worked closely with the coal company and law firm to stymie the EPA’s efforts.
Sessions has long had close ties to both Balch and Drummond, which were consistently among his three biggest contributors, collectively donating nearly a quarter of a million dollars to his campaigns.
Earlier this year, David Roberson, a vice-president at Drummond, and Joel Gilbert, an attorney for Balch & Bingham, were convicted on corruption charges for paying off a Democratic state legislator who admitted that he was paid by the coal company to use his government position to undermine the efforts of neighborhood activists and environmental watchdogs and to provide Drummond intelligence on meetings with EPA officials.
Exhibits introduced in court during Roberson and Gilbert’s trial showed that Glenn and Phillips had also been involved in that effort.
Glenn’s federal financial disclosure report shows that he was paid by Balch and Drummond.
Former Trump EPA chief Scott Pruitt, who resigned in July over numerous ethics allegations, hired Glenn in August 2017. Roberson, the convicted Drummond Co. executive, provided a reference letter endorsing Glenn’s appointment.
After Glenn joined the EPA, he continued to communicate with Alabama regulators about the site until January, when he formally recused himself from matters involving Balch and Drummond.
An attorney who previously represented Glenn and Phillips said both men deny any wrongdoing. The EPA did not comment about the charges.
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