Forty-four yeas ago this month the nation was watching the U.S. Senate hearings about Watergate unfold. This was before cable news, the internet, telephones that took pictures, etc. So we were not bombarded with 24/7 news from Washington as we are today, thank goodness.
A key player in the hearings was Tennessee senator Howard Baker. On June 29, 1973 Baker asked John Dean, “My primary thesis is still, what did the president know, and when did he know it?” Though he served another 12 years in the Senate, this question became the defining moment in Baker’s career.
In the on-going who-dun-it surrounding the search for a state school superintendent last summer the appearance of retired Supreme Court Judge Bernard Harwood of Tuscaloosa at the June 21 state school board meeting brings to mind the long ago question asked by Howard Baker.
According to state superintendent Mike Sentance, he asked Harwood to review the internal report prepared by staff attorney Michael Meyer and offer his opinion of what it meant.
Sentance told the board members that he had emailed them a copy of the Meyer report, plus a memo from Sentance, about 6 p.m. the night before. A copy of the report and memo was obtained by The Alabama Political Reporter and published early on the day of the board meeting.
Sentance told the board that if anyone leaked the report, they were in the room. Meaning it was leaked by a board member. The implication from Senttance was that no one had seen the report until he sent it to the board members.
But the appearance of Harwood calls this contention into question. Common sense tells us the judge had the info to review much earlier than 6 p.m. the evening before. It stretches the imagination too far to think he got the info and within 16 hours before the board met, studied it throughly and then got to Montgomery from Tuscaloosa.
So what did Judge Harwood know and when did he know it?
While it may well be true that Sentance sent the report to his board at 6 p.m. June 20, the real question is who had he given it too prior to that?
Attorney Meyer did the investigation at the request of Sentance. Meyer said he reviewed it with Sentance and others on June 6. Meyer stated that Sentance’s initial reaction was that the info he pulled together would be harmful to someone’s political future. (Board member Mary Scott Hunter is an announced candidate for Lt. Governor and one of five defendants in a law suit brought by Craig Pouncey. She also voted to hire Sentance on Aug. 11, 2016 and has been a staunch supporter of his.)
Sentance denied that he said anything of this nature. But during this exchange, Meyer responded that he did say it.
At the June 21 board meeting, Sentance said that he disagreed with the conclusions of the Meyer report. Which makes one wonder why you ask someone to do something and then disagree with what they do. How thoroughly did Sentance go over the report and discuss the information Meyer found that led him to his conclusion?
Was Harwood brought into all of this because Sentance felt he too would disagree with the report?
(The board had no indication that Harwood was doing this review and he was not on the agenda for June 21. One board member told me Harwood should not have been allowed to speak that day.)
It is worth noting that when Harwood was called upon to speak he told the audience. “I am not as enthusiastic as I was before about appearing.”
Freudian slip? Perhaps.
For more info about questions that are still unanswered, see the latest article about it all on The Alabama Political Reporter.