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Recent reports in The Beacon, a newspaper that covers north Fulton County, drew attention to what could be a whopper. John Albers, a Republican candidate for District 56 state senator, said during a campaign forum that he ran a $5 billion division of AT&T, it reported.
The problem was that Dick Anderson, who once ran a major division of AT&T, happened to be in the audience. Anderson, who backs one of Albers' opponents, told The Beacon, and later PolitiFact Georgia, that he never heard of Albers and couldn't find any telecommunications executive who did. Ouch.
Albers said he was taken out of context. He added that Anderson's claim should be disregarded because he is partisan.
So, did Albers really say he ran a huge telecom operation when he didn't? We had to find out.
Albers is running for an open seat vacated by Dan Moody (R-Johns Creek), the state Senate's majority caucus chairman. Moody was first elected to the seat representing the Roswell area in 2002.
Witnesses said Albers made the statement during a forum hosted by the Chattahoochee Republican Women's Club on March 23. PolitiFact Georgia could find no recording of the event, but attendees including the president of the club, a reporter from The Beacon, Republican District 56 candidate Brandon Beach, and Anderson, who donated to Beach's campaign, all told us that Albers said he ran a large division of the company that was worth lots and lots of money.
Later, at a forum hosted by The Beacon, Beach challenged Albers on his resume. Albers' reply was videotaped, and The Beacon's publisher John Fredericks sent PolitiFact Georgia a copy.
"Now, I've learned in my politicking that you do get taken out of context all the time," Albers said. "I did work at AT&T, I did rise through the ranks very rapidly, and I was responsible for large parts in a $5 billion organization.
"Now, I didn't even know Dick Anderson, so I'm guessing he didn't work anywhere close to our company. But when you have a $98 billion budget and 350,000 employees, you tend not to know too many folks."
The Beacon published a follow-up story on Albers' credentials June 12.
We interviewed Albers afterward. He softened his description of his role at AT&T, saying he said he "helped manage" a $5 billion division of AT&T.
Albers told PolitiFact Georgia that he started with the company in 1993 as a telecommunications equipment installer in Louisville, Ky. He moved up swiftly and left after his division became part of Lucent Technologies. He said his final post there was as a manager of workers who maintained electronic systems used by engineers.
"I was booted up the ranks very quickly," Albers said.
A spokeswoman for what's now called Alcatel-Lucent confirmed much of what Albers told PolitiFact Georgia. He was "part of the business that did installation, maintenance, engineering and a wide range of professional services," according to an e-mail response to our inquiry. He worked for a part of AT&T dubbed "Network Systems," and his title was "Network Capacity Planning Manager." Lucent did not provide information on how many people he supervised.
So did Albers tell the truth?
Only after he was taken to task. As scrutiny of his resume grew, Albers demoted himself from executive whiz kid to manager.
Based on accounts from attendees of the Chattahoochee event, a video recording from The Beacon forum, and our interview of Albers, the candidate gave three different versions of his resume: that he was in charge of a big business organization; that he was a "responsible for large parts in a $5 billion organization"; and that he was a member of management.
Only this final description squared with Lucent employment records.
In response, Albers said PolitiFact Georgia focused too closely on one word—“large”—and re-asserted that he played a significant role at AT&T. He added that we were giving too much credence to attacks made by his opponents and their backers.
Albers' claims that he was part of the billionaire-dollar business executive set were wishful, at best. We rate his statement False.
The Beacon, "Has Hot Senate Race Led To Exaggerated Claims And Embellished Credentials?" June 12, 2010.
The Beacon, "Sparks fly in GOP D-56 State Senate Debate," May 1, 2010.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Political Insider with Jim Galloway, "Your morning jolt: She quit last month, but Kathy Cox will still be on July primary ballot," June 16, 2010.
Video, state Senate District 56 debate, April 27, 2010
Interview, Dick Anderson, former group president, AT&T Global Business Services, June 23, 2010
Interview, Maggie Lee, former reporter, The Beacon, June 21, 2010
E-mail with Alcatel-Lucent spokeswoman, June 21, 2010
Interview, Brandon Beach, candidate, state Senate District 56, June 18, 2010
Interview, Marjean Birt, president, Chattahoochee Republican Women's Club, June 17, 2010
Interview, John Fredericks, publisher, The Beacon, June 16, 2010
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