MAY 06, 2008
Massive fraud, corruption and nepotism in one state’s public community college system has led a congressman to call for legislation banning the widespread practice of state legislators also holding taxpayer-funded jobs at the schools.
A federal investigation into Alabama’s two-year college system has already resulted in the guilty pleas of the system’s chancellor (Roy Johnson) and a state congressman (Democrat Bryant Melton) who was also on the payroll of a community college in Tuscaloosa. Dozens more have been indicted or are still being investigated.
Johnson, who headed the state’s 22-campus system, pleaded guilty in a federal court to 15 counts of bribery and conspiracy for his role in a multi million-dollar scheme and Melton, who was also employed by Shelton State Community College, admitted using thousands of taxpayer dollars for personal use, including paying off gambling debts and his daughter’s college tuition.
Additionally, the son of a separate college’s executive director pleaded guilty to charges that his dad gave him a bogus $66,000-a-year job as a so-called consultant. Many other Democrat members of the Alabama Legislature, who are also employed by a variety of public colleges, have been indictmed and awaiting trial on charges of fiscal abuse.
The rampant corruption is the result of a system that gives double-dipping public servants excessive power, according to one state lawmaker. Legislators who also have full-time, taxpayer-funded jobs create a conflict of interest and the combination gives them far-reaching power that distorts their sense of right and wrong, according to Alabama House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard.
He points out that one-third of the members of the House Education Appropriations Committee, which writes the $6 billion budget Education Trust Fund, are employees of the two-year college system. Some of them have phantom jobs at the schools that don’t even require them to show up for work. This constitutes fraud and abuse, not to mention criminal activity.
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