An Elmore County Commissioner was paid $63,651 over five years to promote a discount drug card that ended up being endorsed by multiple Alabama counties, according to court documents.
Commissioner Joe Faulk pleaded guilty Thursday to using his office for personal gain, the Alabama attorney general’s office announced Thursday afternoon.
Faulk, 56, accepted pay to promote the Coast2CoastRx discount drug card, one of ahandful of discount drug cards endorsed by city or county officials in recent years — discount offers that have often irked local pharmacists who never agreed to the discounts.
Discount drug card companies typically negotiate with drug companies to get discounts on drugs that aren’t typically covered by insurance. Then they persuade city or county officials to endorse the cards through press releases and public proclamations.
Pharmacists who agree to accept the cards often pay an “adjudication fee” to the card company — presumably for bringing business to the pharmacy. Some local pharmacists have told The Star they find the cards an annoyance and refuse to accept them.
According to an investigator’s affidavit, Faulk entered an agreement with Coast2CoastRx to promote the company’s card, getting a 30-cent commission every time a customer used a card as a result. Faulk later voted in favor of Elmore County entering a contract with Coast2CoastRx and pitched the card to a Marshall County commissioner without disclosing his connection to the company, court documents say.
Several other counties have adopted the cards, including Cleburne County and Calhoun County, which has an announcement about the Coast2Coast card posted on its website.
“That blows my mind,” said County Administrator Ken Joiner, when told about Faulk’s plea. He said the county adopted the card because it was recommended by a national organization of county governments.
Joiner said Faulk never pitched the card to him, and no one in county government, to his knowledge, was being paid by a discount card company. He said counties go along with the card proposal because the card company agrees to pay the county government a portion of its profits.
“Our last check from them was $300 or less,” he said. “I believe that’s for the last quarter.”
Attempts to reach Coast2Coast and its parent company Financial Marketing Concepts, were unsuccessful Thursday.
As part of the plea deal, Faulk agreed to resign from the commission. A date for sentencing has not yet been set, according to the attorney general’s office.
Faulk is cooperating with an “ongoing investigation into related matters,” according to the attorney general’s announcement.