5. EDITOR'S CORNER: Alabama Chancellor Byrne Resigns
Alabama two-year colleges Chancellor Bradley Byrne, a former state legislator who took over the system at the height of a corruption scandal, has resigned and is expected to soon announce that he’s running for governor in 2010.
Byrne announced he is resigning and will leave the system on Aug. 31. He said he’ll announce his political plans on May 27.
“I want to take the reform fight to a new arena,” Byrne said in an interview with the Birmingham News.
Byrne is a former state senator and state school board member who took over the two-year system in 2007 as it was being rocked a scandal that led to the conviction of a former chancellor. Roy Johnson was fired in 2006 and pleaded guilty to 15 corruption charges. He is awaiting sentencing.
More than a dozen other college officials have been charged with crimes including fraud, money laundering, theft and conspiracy.
Byrne moved to clean up the system, spearheading efforts to ban “double dipping,” making it against the rules for employees of the two-year college system to hold elected state office. At the time, 13 legislators were employees of the Department of Postsecondary Education.
One of them, Sue Schmitz, was convicted on fraud charges in connection with a no-show job. Prosecutors accused Schmitz, a Democrat, of using political connections to create a community relations job with the Community Intensive Training for Youth program and getting $177,251 in pay while doing little or no work from February 2003 to October 2006.
Gov. Bob Riley, who appointed Byrne to the post, said in a prepared statement that Byrne deserves credit for setting the community college system “on the path of reform.”
“He deserves the thanks of every taxpayer for working hard to clean up what was a corrupt and wasteful system,” Riley said.
The Alabama Community College System includes 29 institutions and serves 180,000 students annually.
The state Board of Education is expected to conduct a nation search to find Byrne’s replacement.