Attorney: Hughes had permission

Published 12:05 am Thursday, November 1, 2012

The former Florala Utilities Board manager fired and arrested in September for theft and misuse of public office will make her first appearance in court next week.

Lynn Hughes, 52, was charged with two counts of theft and an ethics violation after she allegedly issued extra paychecks and paid family insurance premiums totaling more than $40,000.

Montgomery attorney Julian McPhillips is representing Hughes, and said Wednesday that his client is being persecuted by the utilities board.

“I don’t blame the district attorney’s office for (Hughes’) arrest,” McPhillips said. “It’s a reaction to the Florala Utilities Board, who scooped up information. This is just a misunderstanding. Mrs. Hughes had proper authority to do what she did. I think she’s being persecuted by the board.”

Documents provided to The Star-News by McPhillips show Utilities Board Chairman Marvin Williford is subpoenaed for the November hearing and is required to bring the minutes, audiotape and documentation of an Aug. 13 utility board meeting, as well as minutes, memos, handwritten notes and records between Aug. 13 and Sept. 5 from any board meeting or informal meeting where Hughes was discussed.

McPhillips has also requested additional documents from the utility board such as payroll records, personnel files, utility records and grant agreements, which allege other employees were granted special privileges.

The request outlines specific instances of the board providing cell phone bills for employee family members at a discounted rate, payment of family insurance as a condition of employment; payment of utility bills and the waiving of fees for establishing service; and allowing employees to leave early with pay to pick up children from daycare. To read the complete subpoena list, visit this story on The Star-News website.

Hughes’ arrest came after other utility board staff allegedly found numerous accounting discrepancies following her termination in September for insubordination. The board then sought law enforcement assistance, and at the request of the Florala Police Department, the Alabama Bureau of Investigation was brought in to investigate.

Hughes, was booked into the Covington County Jail and later released on a $120,000 bond.

The Nov. 9 hearing will be held at 9 a.m. in front of District Judge Trippy McGuire.