Defense attorneys spent Thursday attacking the honestly and loyalty of the government’s key witness against Mobile County License Commissioner Kim Hastie.
Hastie is accused of misusing her office by hiding payments made to a firm working on her plan to merge the license and revenue commission offices. She is also accused of intimidating workers and providing an email lost to the Sandy Stimpson mayoral campaign.
Victor Crawford is an independent contractor in charge of computer work at the License Commission. In April, 2014, he approached federal authorities, touching off the investigation of Hastie. Wednesday he testified that he felt compelled to buy office Christmas presents, make campaign contributions, and pass through questionable invoices in order to keep his job.
Crawford has worked in some capacity for Mobile County since 1988. At one time, he worked for the County Commission, Probate Court, Public Works, and License Commission and was paid more than a million dollars a year.
By 2008 however, he’d been fired from everywhere but the license commission, where Kim Hastie kept him on at up to $400,000 a year.
“She was the only one left in the county still employing him and she was very loyal to him and thought he was a true friend of hers,” said Hastie’s lawyer Neil Hanley. “So she was crushed by that.”
Crawford secretly recorded conversations with Hastie and her top aide and co-defendant Ramona Yeager, but apparently never asked them directly about the alleged questionable billing.
“He controlled the entire situation,” said Hanley. “He was wired. He was audio and video taping.”
Thursday the defense tried to portray Crawford as not only disloyal, but more importantly dishonest
On cross-examination, Crawford admitted over billing the Public Works Dept. $82,000 in 2007.
He also testified that from 2012-14 he made $195,000 by charging the license commission one rate for his assistant, while paying her another, much lower rate.
“He was billing the county for an employee that was making $25/hour,” said Hanley. “But he was billing it at $75/hour. Mr. Crawford had no overhead at the license commission. Everything was being provided for him. So basically he made $50/hour profit.”
One charge against Hastie is that she secretly paid a marketing firm working on her campaign to combine the license and revenue commission offices, by charging the work through Crawford.
Thursday, however, Crawford admitted that the firm also did web and social media work and that his contract allowed him to pay for such services at Hastie’s discretion.
The trial resumes Friday in federal court.