Jefferson County Community Service Fund

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The Jefferson County Community Service Fund is a fund from which members of the Jefferson County Delegation in the Alabama State Legislature can allocate money to community service projects and organizations at their discretion.

The fund was established by Act of Alabama 2015-226, a local act applying only to Jefferson County, which was sponsored in the House by Oliver Robinson (D-District 58) during the 2015 Alabama legislative session. The law was partly intended to assuage the loss of revenues from the former Jefferson County Occupational Tax. The Community Service Fund act was signed into law by Governor Robert Bentley on May 27, 2015.

The law authorizes the the Jefferson County Commission to levy a 1% sales and use tax in place of the 1% sales tax previously levied by the county to fund repayment of $1.05 billion of bonds issued in 2004 and 2005 to fund school construction. The tax generates approximately $130 million in annual revenues.

According to the law, a maximum of $3.6 million collected through that tax would be deposited in the newly-created Jefferson County Community Service Fund. The law also created a Jefferson County Community Service Committee to oversee allocations from the fund. The four members would be residents and qualified voters in Jefferson County, chosen by the Democratic and Republican members of the House and Senate representing Jefferson County. By law, allocations from the fund can only go to support specific public purposes, including public facilities, public education, neighborhood organizations, performing arts, nonprofits that have been vetted by the United Way of Central Alabama for funding, law enforcement agencies, and programs providing assistance to low-income residents to pay sewer bills. The county began collecting the new tax in August 2017, and the first grants allocated were distributed beginning in October 2018.

Under the rules adopted by the Committee on April 12, 2018, each grant must be for a minimum of $1,000. The form by which those recommendations are made includes attestations that the legislator, their family and their business associates will not benefit from the allocation; that other members of the delegation and their affiliates will not gain from the allocation; that the purpose is qualified under the law; and that the recipient is not an individual. According to the formula adopted by the Committee, each Senator in the county delegation is allowed $243,035.71 to distribute as grants, and each Representative is allowed $100,073.53.

Once the legislators make their nominations, the Committee and an external fund administrator review them for compliance with the law. For administration of the approved grants, the Committee contracts with United Way of Central Alabama for staff support, and holds its meetings at their offices in Birmingham. It also employs attorneys Michael Brymer and Rick Stotser of Massey, Stotser & Nichols as legal counsel and engages Warren Averett to audit its financial statements. The cost of those contracts are generally covered by interest generated by the fund itself. Since October 2022 the fund has been administered by the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham. The Committee publishes its allocations online and also distributes a newsletter to members of the delegation to keep them apprised of its activities and upcoming deadlines.

Jefferson County Community Service Committee

Large grants

The following list was compiled by reporter Hannah Denham to show cumulative allocations from 2018 to 2023:


In practice, members of the delegation have been able to personally deliver checks to recipient organizations, sometimes during public or press events during which they are publicly thanked for appropriating the funds. The fund has been described as a "slush fund" or "pork" by critics of the practice by which incumbent politicians accrue attention and gratitude from constituents.

In 2023 federal investigators uncovered an alleged kickback scheme involving the Jefferson County Community Service Fund. They charged Representative Fred Plump (D-District 55) of conspiring with Varrie Johnson, an aide to Representative John Rogers (D-District 52), to direct funds to Plump's Piper Davis Youth Baseball League. Plump pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of justice. In his statement, he claimed that he gave half of the allocated funds back to Johnson in exchange for her help.

Johnson was indicted on 21 counts of fraud, money laundering, obstruction and conspiracy in August. She pleaded guilty to two counts and agreed to repay $87,767.10 in restitution on August 31. Rogers was indicted on September 27 for alleged obstruction and bribery related to the investigation.


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