A 2006 lawsuit that alleged extortion and breach of contract by Alabama Power Co., which almost went to trial last month, has been settled for $38,000. Hand Contractors of Autaugaville had claimed quality-control inspectors from the power company extorted money and goods from the firm between 2003 and 2005 by "forcing plaintiffs to pay kickbacks." Threats of poor performance reports and loss of contract were allegedly used to demand $250,000 in cash and goods, including construction equipment, firearms, trucks and off-road vehicles. Hand Contractors, which had four to five employees during the time in question, had been hired to control erosion around power lines and towers in several counties. Stanley Hand, the firm’s president, said he signed off on the settlement with strong misgivings. "We were railroaded," he said, adding that the settlement was a tiny fraction of what they had sought. "We were told it was this or nothing."