Former Bodyguards Say They Did Chores on Governor's 'Sweat Farm'
Oct. 03, 1991
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ Three former state-paid bodyguards say they often pruned trees, wormed cattle and performed other farm chores for Gov. Guy Hunt, who is already fighting an ethics case in his use of state airplanes.
The former security officers, speaking in separate interviews this week, said they worked with the governor while on security detail at his 160-acre farm in northern Alabama.
Hunt spokesman Terry Abbott said Thursday all farm work performed by bodyguards was voluntary. Hunt is an ''active farmer,'' and security officers must be with him constantly, Abbott said.
''The governor has never asked any of his security people to do any kind of work on his farm. But if they wanted to get out there and work and get some exercise,'' he would not stop them, said Abbott.
Abbott said there was nothing wrong with security people doing chores ''as long as it's completely voluntary of their part.''
But two former members of Hunt's security detail said they felt pressured to work with Hunt, whose Holly Pond home is known among some bodyguards as the ''sweat farm.'' A third man said he did the work voluntarily.
Hunt has earned at least $5,000 and as much as $50,000 from the farm since 1986, according to forms Hunt filed with the Alabama Ethics Commission. Officeholders are only required to report wide ranges of income on the forms.
The Ethics Commission never has addressed the propriety of state-paid security officers performing household chores or farm work, commission director Melvin Cooper said Wednesday.
However, the commission has ''come down hard'' on mayors and county commissioners who had public employees do personal work on taxpayer time, said Cooper.
Hunt, a Primitive Baptist preacher, is facing a possible prosecution for using state airplanes to travel to church appearances where he was given almost $10,000 in offerings during the past four years.
The Ethics Commission, acting in its first formal investigation of a governor since the ethics law was passed in 1973, ruled last month there was probable cause to believe Hunt may have violated the law by taking the money.
The panel referred the case to Attorney General Jimmy Evans, who was preparing to take the matter before a grand jury when Hunt filed suit in federal court to block him.
Hunt's lawsuit claims he is not subject to prohibitions of the state ethics law, partly because of the separation of powers doctrine. Arguments in the case are pending.
Hunt has refused to release information about the size of his security detail and the assignments given his bodyguards. He has said the number of guards traveling with him needs to be kept confidential for security reasons.
One former bodyguard, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Hunt's son Keith, who formerly headed the governor's security detail and was paid through Hunt's political organization, would tell state-paid bodyguards to ''be ready to work this weekend.''
Security officers are trained to stay with the governor and Hunt likes to do farm work on weekends,'' he said.
''The indirect pressure was there to help him and get him back to the house,'' said the former guard.
Another former officer, also speaking on the condition his name not be used, said the work was ''just something you were expected to do.''
''You'd really have been on the outs if you didn't pitch in and help,'' he said. ''For security, you're supposed to keep a 360-degree view of what's around (Hunt). But you can't protect him if you've got a shovel or post-hole diggers in your hand.''
A third former member of the detail, Rufus Howell, said the governor never asked or pressured anyone into working. The former state trooper retired in October 1989 after three years with Hunt.
''He'd do twice as much work as we did. I didn't mind doing it,'' said Howell.