Former Alabama employee has no AT&T job responsibilities in state, AT&T says amid FirstNet ethics questions
A former state of Alabama employee now working for AT&T’s FirstNet does not have any job responsibilities within the state, AT&T said yesterday in a statement provided in the wake of recent media reports questioning whether the hiring represents a violation of Alabama’s “revolving-door” ethics policy.
Ryan Burchnell, who served as the executive director of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and as the state’s single point of contact (SPOC) from April 2016 to May 2017, was hired by AT&T as a “lead market development manager-FirstNet” in June, according to Burchnell’s LinkedIn page. AT&T was awarded the contract to build FirstNet’s nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) in March.
During the last week, articles published in the Alabama Political Reporter and the Huffington Post raised questions whether Burchnell violated Alabama’s “revolving-door” ethics law that prohibits former state officials or employees from conducting business within the Alabama on matters in which they were directly involved while employed by the state for at least two years.
“No public official shall serve for a fee as a lobbyist or otherwise represent clients, including his or her employer before the board, agency, commission, department, or legislative body, of which he or she is a former member for a period of two years after he or she leaves such membership,” according to the Alabama law.
But Burchnell’s job does not include any responsibilities within the state of Alabama, according to a statement from AT&T.
“We’re looking to fill our team with leaders who are passionate about and experienced in public safety,” according to the AT&T statement. “We undergo a careful review of non-compete issues before bringing anyone to the team. Ryan’s job responsibilities do not include any activities related to Alabama state or local officials. He supports FirstNet activities in other states and local jurisdictions.”
Calls by IWCE’s Urgent Communications to Burchnell and the Alabama attorney general’s office were not returned in time for responses to be included in this article.
Yesterday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced her “opt-in” decision, meaning the state accepts the FirstNet deployment plan that calls for AT&T to build and maintain the public-safety LTE radio access network (RAN) within Alabama. Ivey’s decision followed a unanimous vote from the Alabama First Responder Wireless Commission (AFRWC) to send an “opt-in” letter of recommendation to the governor. The AFRWC is chaired by Hal Taylor, who also serves as secretary of ALEA—the organization that Burchnell headed.
While serving as ALEA executive director and Alabama’s SPOC, Burchnell help lead the effort to have the state issue a request for proposal (RFP) last year seeking bids from potential vendors to build an alternative RAN, if Alabama were to achieve “opt-out” status—a decision that would make the state responsible for building and maintaining the public-safety LTE RAN for the next 25 years. Alabama was the second state to issue an RFP seeking an alternative RAN vendor.
Alabama announced that it had received three bids in February, but no vendor was selected as part of the procurement process. Ivey was sworn in as governor on April 10—replacing Robert Bentley, who resigned amid a sex scandal and charges of campaign-finance violations—and Burchnell ceased working in the state government weeks later.
Prior to joining the state of Alabama, Burchnell was known in the public-safety communications industry for working almost 20 years as the chief technology officer for the state of Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.