Siegelman Cleared

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The Alabama Ethics Commission has cleared Gov. Siegelman of any wrongdoing in the payment of any legal fees the governor might have received as a result of state's settlement of a national tobacco lawsuit.

The ethics commission ruled Tuesday on a complaint filed against Siegelman by Mobile attorney Jim Zeigler, who lost the Republican race for state auditor.

The commission voted 3-1 that there was no evidence that the governor violated the state ethics law.

Zeigler's complaint alleged that about $800,000 that the governor received in a severance-style deal with his former law firm was a payoff for the settlement of two lawsuits against tobacco companies. Those lawsuits were filed by Siegelman as a private attorney before he became governor.

Zeigler had tried to get most of the commission members to recuse themselves from hearing the complaint. However, only Commissioner Jack Drake recused himself from the vote. Drake was one of the attorneys involved in the national tobacco litigation.

Commissioner Raymond Bell, who used to serve on Siegelman's staff, said he considered stepping down, but decided he didn't have a conflict.