Alabama received its highest ranking in the Center for Public Integrity study on the category of Executive Accountability. It was ranked second-best in the country, with a score of 81.9.
Ironically, Alabama got that high score in part because officials have been tried and convicted for corruption. The prosecutions show the state has laws prohibiting corruption and the political will to take the cases to court.
There has been no shortage of prosecutions. Two of Alabama’s past six governors have been convicted while in office. Former Gov. Don Siegelman was convicted in 2006 of bribery in a federal corruption probe. He still is appealing his verdict. Former Gov. Guy Hunt was convicted in 1993 on charges of appropriating money from his inaugural campaign for personal use.
Alabama’s high score in this category also can be attributed to the state having specific laws against using state property for personal gain, accepting gifts and hiring relatives. The state also requires the governor and cabinet-level officials to file statements of economic interests each year that include information about income, investments and debt for the public official, their spouses and their dependent children. However, most of that information is reported in broad ranges rather than specific amounts, and it is not routinely audited. The forms are filed with the Ethics Commission, though, and are available for public review online.
The state also got points in this category because the governor in recent years has routinely given reasons for policy decisions and has not made major policy changes through executive order.