The voice in the commercial claims “while other legislators fought to save Bryce, Gerald Allen went behind everybody’s back and literally scratched his name off the list.”
The TV spot displays a document of names with Allen’s scratched off, and, through words displayed on screen, the ad claims Allen did not support House Resolution 676 “to save over 600 Bryce jobs.”
SUMMARY: Allen did scratch his support off a task force to study mental health care in Tuscaloosa, but that was months before the option of moving Bryce to Birmingham surfaced.
ANALYSIS: In 2009, the sale of Bryce Hospital to the University of Alabama was a contentious issue with political wrangling over how the sale would proceed.
A report from the state published in April, on how the sale could work, outlined that a downsizing of Bryce and loss of two mental health programs would be part of the transition. Tuscaloosa city and county leaders feared job losses and the sale could further strain local resources as more state patients enter the community. Believing local residents were left out of decisions, the county’s delegation mustered a resolution to form a mental health task force.
The resolution authorizing the task force does not mention opposition to moving Bryce to Birmingham. In fact, it was not a referendum on Bryce or the sale. The bill would have created a legislative task force to study mental health care in the county. The bill passed both houses, but was not signed by the end of the 2009 session by Gov. Bob Riley, resulting in a pocket veto.
Allen at first signed the bill along with the county’s six other representatives, but did as the ad claims and scratched out HIS name.
“The resolution wasn’t what I thought it was, so I thought it was best to remove my name,” Allen said.
Allen said he had talked with the governor for several years about improving mental health care at Bryce, and felt the task force would be an unnecessary obstacle in a process already moving along.
After the mental health board rejected UA’s offer for the Bryce campus in October 2009, the option to move Bryce to the vacant Carraway hospital in downtown Birmingham surfaced. There had been no public discussion of moving Bryce out of Tuscaloosa before that, including when local legislators wanted to created the mental health task force.
However, Poole stands by his ad. The specter of moving Bryce to Birmingham had been around for years even if it wasn’t mentioned in public, and the task force was set up to recommend keeping Bryce here, he said.
Poole said Allen was approached by Republican party leadership to remove his support from the task force resolution because Riley wanted the flexibility to move Bryce.
“I believe Gerald was under pressure to make a choice between his district and his party, and he chose his party,” Poole said.
Allen denied being told Riley wanted the option to move Bryce.