The Federal Communications Commission has refused to revoke broadcast licenses held by former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, ruling that the commission’s Law Enforcement Office failed to prove intent to deceive Hubbard or that the convictions disqualified him from holding the licenses.
In a 21-page decision, Administrative Judge Jane Hinckley Halprin wrote that the convictions showed Hubbard “betrayed the trust of the public for which he was elected.” But she added that the Enforcement Office had not shown that Hubbard’s convictions meant he would act “dishonestly” with the FCC, or that the stations themselves were involved in the activity.
“It is difficult to say that Mr. Hubbard has made efforts to remedy the situation or that he has been ‘rehabilitated’ given the progress of the criminal case and the fact that he is currently incarcerated,” said writes Halprin. “On the other hand, while the stations’ management technically participated in the crimes because Mr. Hubbard is the sole shareholder of licensee Auburn Network, there is no evidence that the stations themselves were involved. .”
Scott Johnson, an attorney who represented Hubbard before the FCC, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that the decision reflected Hubbard’s reputation in the industry and with regulators.
“His airplay record as the station’s incumbent is remarkably good,” he said.
A Lee County jury convicted Hubbard, a Republican from Auburn, on 12 criminal ethics charges in 2016, mostly related to using his public office to obtain consulting jobs or financial aid. State appeals courts dismissed six counts but allowed six to stand. Hubbard is currently incarcerated at Limestone Correctional Center. Its earliest release date is January 8, 2023.
Hubbard founded the Auburn Network in 1994 and is its sole shareholder. The Auburn Network holds licenses for WANI, an AM station in Opelika, and WGZZ, an FM station in Waverly in Lee and Chambers counties. The network also holds licenses for three FM stations that rebroadcast WGZZ and a building permit for WHBD-LD in Auburn, a low-power television station.
In 2020, Hubbard sold the stations to Frank Lee Perryman of Marble City Media for $775,000. But the license transfer, Halprin wrote, was “put on hold” while the complaint was resolved.
The FCC’s Bureau of Law Enforcement argued that Hubbard used the Auburn Network as a way to hide his work as a consultant to the Alabama Ethics Commission. Halprin wrote that the office had not shown Hubbard “intended to obfuscate,” citing contacts Hubbard had made with ethics officers on business matters.
“Alabama public officials are authorized by the Alabama Code of Ethics to engage in outside business, and Mr. Hubbard has consulted with ethics officers for guidance in this regard,” wrote the opinion of Jane Hinckley Halprin, FCC Administrative Law Judge. . “While there were obvious flaws in the way he followed the advice given to him, the fact that he reached out arguably belies an effort to deceive.”
The judge wrote that Hubbard’s convictions were based on “his failure to properly separate his official position in the state from his extra-official business activities”, and said Hubbard had not committed “victimless crimes “.
But she added that the bureau of law enforcement had not shown that Hubbard’s convictions meant he would act “dishonestly” with the FCC. Halprin wrote that while the FCC revoked the licenses of those convicted of murder or child abuse, a 1990 character policy statement “makes it clear that not all crimes are disqualifying.” Hubbard’s beliefs, she wrote, “do not represent the kind of moral turpitude that would make them ‘shock the conscience’.”
“An official’s wrongdoings may indeed be relevant in assessing that person’s ability to serve the public interest as an FCC licensee, but in this particular case and in these particular circumstances, the evidence presented does not do not meet the burden of proof,” she said. wrote.
After:Lawyers: Former House Speaker Mike Hubbard wants to respond to Attorney General’s accusations
Hubbard filed for early release from prison last September, writing that he took “responsibility for my mistakes.” The Alabama attorney general’s office contested the motion, citing emails and phone calls from the prison where Hubbard called his sentencing a “political stunt” and that he was “holding his nose” while signing the motion. the letter. Hubbard last December requested a hearing to discuss the letter. Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker, who presided over Hubbard’s trial, did not rule on the motion.
FCC Auburn Network Decision by Brian Lyman on Scribd
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Brian Lyman at 334-240-0185 or [email protected]