Sherry Lewis, now former chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the Birmingham Water Works, was convicted today on two felony counts of violating the state ethics law, announced Attorney General Steve Marshall and the Birmingham Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Under state law, she no longer holds her position upon her felony conviction.
Lewis was convicted by a jury in Jefferson County Circuit Court following a six-day trial, and immediately taken into custody. Specifically, she was convicted of using her official position for personal gain and for voting or participating on a matter in which she or her family had a financial interest or gain. Lewis was taken into custody after the verdicts were returned.
Lewis’s lawyer, Brett Bloomston, has said he would appeal.
Presiding Judge Clyde Jones set Lewis’ sentencing for December 12, when she faces a potential sentence of two to 20 years imprisonment for each of the class B felonies for which she was convicted.
State and federal officials partnered to investigate allegations of corruption in the Birmingham Water Works and its independent engineer of record, Arcadis (formerly known as Malcolm Pirnie), as well as Arcadis subcontractor, Global Solutions International, Inc.
“This verdict should send a strong message that public corruption in Alabama will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Marshall. “[Lewis] was entrusted with a duty to serve the people and instead she broke that trust for the benefit of herself and her family. Targeting public corruption is a priority for my office and I appreciate the assistance of the FBI in bringing this case to a successful conclusion.”
FBI Special Agent Jonnie Sharp Jr., said, “Public officials, like Lewis, who use their position for private gain undermine the integrity of government and erode the public’s trust in the very framework of our democracy. That is why public corruption remains the FBI’s top criminal priority and we will continue to work with our partners to combat corruption at every level. “
Prosecutors presented evidence that Lewis obtained three jobs for her son through various subcontractors. Evidence also showed that Lewis and members of her family accepted meals and entertainment, including tickets to the 2015 Cotton Bowl, from Arcadis Vice President Jerry Jones even after State law changed in 2015 clearly prohibiting such conduct.
Evidence also revealed that Arcadis is currently attempting to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Birmingham Water Works Board, based on information relating to the investigation.
Jones and Terry Williams, the owner of one of the subcontractors who provided jobs and other expenses to Lewis and her son, are awaiting trial in state and federal courts for conduct related to the joint state-federal investigation.