State Fire College Funding Gutted

This stinks badly of people who have been in power too long and don’t like to be thwarted.

A year after firefighters stopped two-year college officials from taking over the Alabama Fire College, state lawmakers have taken most of the funding from the firefighter training school and given it to a community college program that doesn’t exist.

The state education budget, passed this week by lawmakers and now awaiting Gov. Bob Riley’s approval, strips away nearly three-fourths of the $8.1 million set aside for the firefighter school in Tuscaloosa and gives it to the Alabama Fire and Emergency Services Academy, a program that is supposed to be run by Shelton State Community College.

But the academy doesn’t exist, Shelton State spokeswoman Leigh Hays said Wednesday.

Firefighters whose disclosures helped launch an investigation into corruption at the Fire College, which has now expanded to the two-year system, think this is payback by community college presidents and lawmakers who aren’t happy that they’re about to get kicked off the gravy train.  They’ve been unable to find out who is behind the shift in funds; Sen. Hank Sanders (D-Selma) inserted the change, but in a scenario similar to the US Attorney firings, no one wants to admit who requested it.

And giving the money to Shelton State just seems stupid beyond belief, given the corruption and mismanagement that’s run rampant there.

The situation at Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa has in some ways been even worse. Along with allegations of nepotism, cronyism and other questionable management practices, President Rick Rogers has been accused of personally benefiting from some of the less-than-upright deals at Shelton State and the Alabama Fire College, which is located on the campus. Rogers has been on paid leave since last year, after accusations that Fire College money had been used to buy furniture and pay cell phone bills for him.

IIRC, Gov. Riley has a version of the line-item veto that would allow him to remove this portion of the budget.  Sounds like a plan to me.  Stupid payback politics is wrong, no matter which party perpetrates it.

7 Responses to “State Fire College Funding Gutted”

  1. Del says:

    That is just embarrassing. Did they maybe think nobody would notice that little last-minute change? And they’re not rooking just anybody—no, they have to pick the noble & heroic firefighters. Real smart move, guys. Way to keep the Alabama Democrats on top!

    If Sanders isn’t willing to point the finger maybe he needs to take the entire blame.

  2. Kathy says:

    Chancellor Byrne has some heavy lifting ahead. I don’t envy him the job.

  3. Susan says:

    I keep wondering when we will discuss Joe Turnham brother’s guilty plea in the two year college mess. Seems the family business has been paying bribes and kickbacks for many years. This is all part of the fire college mess, but the silence here is defening.

  4. Brian says:

    Even though Guin quit his “job” at Shelton State and is now just a lowly, regular double dipper, I wonder if this is some payback for all of those unearned paychecks.

  5. Kathy says:

    Brian, I wouldn’t be surprised.

  6. Susan, the story I get (from someone who was there back in the heyday on the Roy Johnson-Alabama Contract Sales (Turnham) deals) is this: they literally could buy almost nothing that didn’t come from Turnham’s company. Year after year, somehow, they were the low bidder…

    It isn’t directly related to the Fire College story, but yes there are links in some of the players.

    Don’t know the closed-door details about Hank Sanders-Fire College yet, but expect to find out soon. Won’t be long now before there’s movement on Rick Rogers’ situation, so take that into account.

    The new Chancellor is handling this one well; the Gov is backing him in this morning’s paper. I think the plan is still to have the Fire College separated from Postsecondary, and “parking” that money wouldn’t have ruffled feathers at all, had it not been done in such a last-minute hush-hush way.

    Full disclosure, FYI: I work for Postsecondary.

  7. Susan says:

    Jeff,

    Thanks for the info. Let us know what you find out about the Sanders deal. I’m in Lee County and it has been common knowledge around here for years that Alabama Contract Sales was involved in bribes and kickbacks.

    Be careful.

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