Present and former members of the Houston County Commission have been ordered to testify before a grand jury looking into possible criminal wrongdoing regarding the development and operation of Country Crossing, now known as Center Stage Alabama.
Those receiving subpoenas include Houston County Commission Chairman Mark Culver, and current commissioners Doug Sinquefield, Jackie Battles, Melinda McClendon, and Curtis Harvey. In addition, former commissioners Bobby Snellgrove and Frances Cook were also ordered to testify.
Harvey confirmed he received a subpoena but said he doesn't know why he was ordered to testify. Former commissioner Bobby Snellgrove said he was served Monday but asked not to discuss the matter. He added, "I ain't got nothing to hide." Snellgrove declined additional comment. Meanwhile, Chairman Mark Culver, in a prepared release, said the commission is happy to cooperate with the investigation. A spokesperson for Strange has not commented.
A separate subpoena was issued by Strange in early September seeking records regarding the commission and its relationship with the Houston Economic Development Authority, a group created by the commission that oversees the operation and charity funds from bingo games played at the gaming development. McClendon, Sinquefield, and Battles were not members of the commission at the time.
Country Crossing opened in December, 2009 but closed two months later to avoid a raid by agents from a state task force formed to determine the legality of so-called electronic bingo machines. Similar raids also shut down other gaming operations including Victoryland and White Hall Entertainment Center.
Country Crossing later reopened under the name Center Stage and offered gaming machines that management claimed were compliant with state law. However, Strange issued a cease and desist order requesting the machines be removed. After Center Stage failed to comply, a raid in July resulted in the confiscation of several hundred bingo machines and $275,000 in cash. Center Stage remains open, offering traditional paper bingo. The legality of the latest raid is being contested in court.
The commissioners are expected to testify before the grand jury on or about December 10. At this time, none of them are accused of wrongdoing.