Copyright 1992 Freethought Today Reprinted with permission GOVERNOR HUNT PROBE WIDENS An e

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Copyright 1992 Freethought Today Reprinted with permission GOVERNOR HUNT PROBE WIDENS An ethics review of Alabama Gov. Guy Hunt's use of state transportation for paid preaching engagements around the country has widened into a grand jury probe. Alabama Foundation members and the national office of the Freedom From Religion Foundation had originally called for an ethics probe when it was reported that Hunt was traveling at taxpayers expense to accept preaching invitations where he received cash "loving offerings." He is a Primitive Baptist minister. The ethics review panel, with a 4-0 vote in September, 1991, found probable cause that using taxpayers money for preaching and personal gain was an ethics violation. Attorney General Jimmy Evans is still investigating whether Hunts acceptance of donations for preaching while using the state plane was a violation. Evans created an 18-member grand jury panel in May to consider whether to make an indictment. In September, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that Elmore County taxpayer Ralph Windom has a right to sue the governor over the plane trips, and ordered Hunt to produce his tax records. The suit demands that Hunt repay the state an estimated $200,000 for the preaching trips. Windom, a World War II and Korean War veteran, says Hunts' use of the state plane violates the Alabama Constitutions ban on the use of tax dollars to support a religion. The grand jury is also investigating Hunt for his personal and campaign finances. Hunt received $10,000 from a businessman whom he later appointed to the state liquor board. Hunt called the money a personal gift and did not report it as a campaign contribution or on his personal income tax return. The donor, Don Martin, awaiting federal charges of defrauding $290 million from savings and loans and other investors, says it was a campaign contribution. The state jet costs about $800 an hour to operate. Last year Hunt paid the state $9,724 for cash offerings he took on 18 church flights from 1987 and 1991, after Associated Press disclosed the trips, and promised to quit using state vehicles to preach. However, Hunt later led suit claiming the ethics law did not apply to him, partly because it infringes his "religious rights." He lost the suit in federal court and was ordered to pay all court costs. But Hunt insists he will bill taxpayers for his share. The attorney general's office has spent at least $62,000 defending against Hunt's suit.

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