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Scrutiny of Alabama community colleges continues; report: ex-chancellor directed two colleges to hire painters.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- When he was chancellor of Alabama's two-year college system, Roy Johnson directed officials at two campuses to hire painters who had worked on his Opelika home, setting up two no-bid deals worth nearly $50,000 each, The Birmingham News reported last month.

Quoting college officials, The News said that Johnson directed Central Alabama Community College in Alexander City and Southern Union State Community College in Opelika to hire the painters last year.

Talladega County District Attorney Steve Giddens has said he is investigating the no-bid work painting classrooms at Central Alabama Community College, which cost nearly $50,000 and which state auditors have questioned.

The News said records also show Southern Union paid the painters nearly $50,000 from November until June without seeking competitive bids. State auditors have not examined Southern Union's hiring of the painters.

Officials at both colleges have said they understood the work did not have to be put out for competitive bids because it did not exceed a $50,000 threshold for public works projects. Auditors and Giddens have said the jobs were common projects covered by a state law requiring bids for work exceeding $7,500.

Johnson, who built a home in Opelika last year and recently put it on the market for nearly $1 million, was fired by the state school board in July amid reports of two-year college jobs and payments going to his family members. A federal and state investigation has also looked into Johnson's relationship to contractors doing work in the two-year college system.

Johnson's attorney, Joe Espy of Montgomery, declined comment.

The News reported in July that an Opelika painter, Tommy Tucker, painted Johnson's Opelika home and later got contracts for $25-an-hour work at Southern Union and Central Alabama Community College, working mostly on weekends and holidays. Tucker declined to say how much he was paid to paint Johnson's home or how he learned of the college paint jobs, the News said in that report.

Attempts to reach Tucker for comment were not immediately successful.

Central Alabama President Linda McGuirt, who was associate dean when the painters were hired, said Johnson told college officials to use the painters and he would send the money to pay them.

Joanne Jordan, former president of Southern Union, said Johnson sent the painters to the college but did not provide money for the work. She told the News in a story that she was led to believe by Johnson that the work would be a small project, but it lasted from November until June, when she ended it after realizing it was approaching the $50,000 threshold.

She told The News she allowed Johnson to assign the painters because "the chancellor is in charge."
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Title Annotation:The Alabama Case
Publication:Community College Week
Date:Nov 6, 2006
Words:454
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