State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) is planning to file legislation banning non-disclosure agreements involving taxpayer dollars.

At a Contract Review Committee meeting Thursday afternoon, Pringle told Terri Lovell, executive director at the Alabama State Bar, that he's "bringing a bill that's going to outlaw y'all from using taxpayer's money to buy the silence of other people with non-disclosure agreements."

"Get ready for it," Pringle said at the meeting. "We're not going to be paying people off using taxpayer's money on non-disclosure agreements anymore. No offense to you. You got to mop up that mess."

Lovell was presenting a $50,000 contract before the committee for John Marsh, an attorney with Ball, Ball, Matthews and Novak, P.A., for "outside legal services" related to litigation against the state bar and a former executive director of the state bar.

Katherine Church, a former Alabama State Bar employee, filed suit in June against both Phillip McCallum, a former state bar executive director, and the Alabama State Bar, alleging, among other things, that McCallum repeatedly ordered her to handle personal tasks for him while on the clock, in violation of state law, according to Mobile's Lagniappe.

Lovell said at the meeting she agreed with Pringle after he mentioned his proposed legislation.

Pringle told 1819 News in a text message that his legislation "bans NDAs, period using taxpayer money." The next legislative session in Alabama begins in March.

A state audit of the State Bar of Alabama for Oct. 1, 2019 to Sept. 30, 2021, found the state bar executed "separation agreements" with three former employees despite not having the "statutory authority" to execute separation agreements.

"It is noted, the separation agreements with two of the former employees contained a 'confidentiality and non-disparagement' clause, which required the employees to keep confidential the existence of the agreement and refrain from disclosing its terms, contents, benefits to employees, conditions, proceedings, and negotiations," the audit stated.

One employee resigned on Oct. 23, 2020. Two employees resigned on May 14, 2021.

All three unnamed employees in the audit received salary payments, retirement deductions and health benefits months after resigning, according to the audit. Auditors recommended that the state bar "should not execute unauthorized, confidential separation agreements with employees unless authorized by law."

Lovell began her tenure as executive director of the Alabama State Bar in June 2021. McCallum served as the executive director from January 2017 to October 2020. The Alabama Ethics Commission fined him $100,000 for 17 ethics violations that weren't referred for criminal prosecution in April 2021, according to WSFA 12.

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