BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) – The 11th Circuit upheld the corruption convictions of former Jefferson County Commissioner Chris McNair and former county official Jack Swann for their part in the county’s $3.2 billion sewer system scandal.
In 2007, the two former public officials were found guilty of accepting bribes from contractors in exchange for work on the Jefferson County sewer system. McNair was sentenced to five years in federal prison, and Swann was sentenced to eight years in jail. Both men have remained free on bond during their appeals.
McNair, Swann and seven contractors – Bobby Rast, Danny Rast, Rast Construction, Pat Dougherty, F.W. Dougherty Engineering & Associates, Roland Pugh Sr. and Roland Pugh Construction – appealed their convictions or sentences or both.
In a 167-page ruling, the Atlanta-based federal appeals court upheld all but one of the convictions stemming from the 127-count indictment, which included charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud and obstruction of justice.
The three-judge panel said the evidence at trial “overwhelmingly established” the defendants’ guilt. McNair, known to contractors as “big man,” accepted envelopes of cash in exchange for “millions of dollars” of county work, the court said.
McNair owned a small photography business, the ruling states, and contractors “generously contributed” to the renovation and expansion of his studio. The court said Swann, known as “little big man,” also received free renovation work from the defendant contractors.
The circuit court vacated one count of Roland Pugh Construction’s conviction as having been filed too late. It also ordered the lower court to explain why it set Swann’s fine at $250,000.
The defendants are just a few in a long line of public officials and contractors who have been convicted in the sewer bond debacle that has financially crippled Jefferson County and left it on the verge of bankruptcy.