MONTGOMERY — House Pro-Tempore Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) called Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) director John Cooper a "tyrant" and placed a hold on 21 transportation contracts on Thursday.

Pringle said during a Contract Review Committee meeting he was placing an up to 45-day hold on every ALDOT contract over an unanswered letter he sent to Cooper regarding projects Cooper canceled during the Gov. Robert Bentley administration.

"I want an answer to my letter. I think it's a valid question. He was being petty. He was being vindictive," Pringle said. "I think he cost the taxpayers of this state millions and millions of dollars with his pettiness. I'd like an answer to where we are with those projects."

Pringle called Cooper "a tyrant" and said, "I would not want to go to work in that agency under that man."

"I've got to get to the floor so we're going to cut to the chase," he added. "I'm going to carry every one of your contracts over. I wrote a letter to the Director and I asked him a very simple question. Back under Bentley's administration, he pulled a bunch of contracts and I want to know where they are. I wrote him five weeks ago and I've gotten no response from him. It's a very simple request. Out of pettiness he pulled several projects in Limestone County in response to an ad by then-Senator Holtzclaw and I know he thought it was cute and funny, but I want to know exactly how many millions of dollars the taxpayers lost due to his pettiness in that one move. Those contracts were shovel ready, they were ready to go. I want to know where they are. Have they done those contracts or are they still on the shelf? He's a tyrant, just leave it at that."

Cooper, an appointee of Bentley, told AL(dot)com in 2015 he thought State Sen. Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) went "over the line" when Holtzclaw rented space on a billboard that said, "Governor Bentley wants to raise your taxes. I will not let that happen. Semper Fi - Senator Bill Holtzclaw."

Cooper told the outlet he did not know a specific number of projects he ordered stopped but said they would have cost in the range of $100 million over the next two to three years.

"If Sen. Holtzclaw is that concerned with taxes I think he probably would be uncomfortable with us spending tax money in his district, so I pulled the projects," Cooper said.

Contract Review Committee chairman State Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) told ALDOT assistant chief engineer for policy and planning Clay McBrien at the meeting "I[f] you'll help scratch where Mr. Pringle is itching today, that would be great."

An ALDOT spokesperson declined to comment on Friday.

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