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Report: Ala two-year colleges spend on lobbyists despite ban.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Millions of dollars have been spent on lobbyists and lobbying firms by some of Alabama's two-year colleges despite a ban prohibiting the schools from hiring them, The Birmingham News reported.

Most of those firms are tied to former college administrators, including a friend of fired Chancellor Roy Johnson, the newspaper reported.

Fifteen campuses spent almost $2 million on 50 contracts to lobbyists and lobbying firms during the 2004 and 2005 fiscal years, despite a 1995 ban by the state school board prohibiting any institution under it "from paying with state funds for the services of a lobbyist on a contract or consulting basis."

The newspaper said some of the agreements with lobbying firms state they are not for lobbying services, and most agreements describe the services as consulting, research grants development or strategic planning.

Andre Taylor, the two-year system spokesman, declined comment. Questions were referred to the colleges that approved the contracts.

At Shelton State, which paid five lobbyists or lobbying firms during the two-year period, spokeswoman Leigh Hays said the college is allowed to employ consultants to assist with governmental affairs and business relations. She said they help the college obtain grants from state agencies and keep campus officials aware of federal initiatives.

More than $410,000 in contracts were given by some colleges to Jimmie Clements or firms that hired Clements, a longtime friend of Johnson's, the News said. The two met 30 years ago, and Clements led Johnson's political campaigns when he served in the Legislature.

Former Shelton State Community College President Thomas Umphrey received $67,000 from October 2003 through September 2005 in contracts with colleges for his firm, Thomas E. Umphrey & Associates. State Ethics Commission records have Umphrey listed with several lobbying firms receiving more than $740,000 in contracts during that time, the News said.

He declined to comment, the News said, and referred questions to the colleges.

It's unclear what services Umphrey and Clements or their firms provided to the colleges. The consultants and firms, in most cases, were not required to provide a report or explanation.

State school board member Stephanie Bell of Montgomery wants the board to revisit the issue.

"I think it's crucial to get to the bottom of it when they are in violation of a state policy." she said.
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Publication:Community College Week
Date:Aug 14, 2006
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