Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bama JuCo mess still appropriately being covered

I thought I'd blogged on Jennifer Washburn's University, Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of American Higher Education previously yet apparently I've not. This book has been on my wish list for some time however. I'm an educator at heart. While hardly a fan of the excesses of capitalism I am equally bothered by corruption. And it would appear we've got a good dose of that in Alabama.

Brett Blackledge of The B'ham News, who else regular readers or those in the know might ask, is back in the saddle with Records show Alabama State Sen. E.B. McClain got paid from state grants he sent to nonprofit group. I'd built off his earlier work when I mentioned Senator McClain's latest woes in a December post.

While Senator McClain may have committed ethical and perhaps even criminal acts by getting paid via grants he helped secure, Rep. John Rogers and his bride were also cashing checks from Sam Pettagrue's "non-profit" named "Community Resource Center" which was later changed to "Heritage of Hope".

There's also a mention of former Governor Don Siegelman's aide and then ADECA director Nick Bailey, who of course in currently in the can after cutting a deal and tossing Don under the bus. The article indicates
Nick Bailey, who was then Gov. Don Siegelman's ADECA director, sent an e-mail to an agency employee in early May 2001 asking her to "check on a grant thru Knight for Sen. McClain, re: a community resource center." Within a few days, Pettagrue received the grant.
The "thru Knight for Sen. McClain" likely doesn't help Rep. John Knight, who I'm a fan of for his efforts on tax fairness, in the best light yet that's Nick Bailey's correspondence.

Then Senate General Fund Budget Committee Chairman Roger Bedford also was mentioned for approving ADECA funds through Lawson Community College that wound up with the Pettagrue non-profit. I'm fond of Roger the Dodger as well for his often relatively Progressive positions yet accept that he's had a few "stumbles" along the way. Blackledge writes
McClain, however, requested a $200,000 grant through Bedford in December 2001, records show. He made the request in the name of Lawson State Community College.
That "through" is Blackledge's own it would appear but I still don't like the way it reads. I surely hope Brett's not part of the "team" that some fear are looking for heads of Alabama Democrats to hang on the wall.

There's more in this sorry saga.
McClain helped Pettagrue's nonprofit tap into state two-year college funding in 2003 after the ADECA grant program ended. The two-year college funding continued into 2006 for the nonprofit, totaling more than $310,000, records show.
It looks like Roy Johnson talked after all. Good grief! Certainly I think there are questions about the way these investigations are being carried out, most notably in how the Middle District's Alice Martin is going about her work. Her effort to serve subpoenas while the Alabama legislature was in session was most improper and clearly grandstanding. The early morning raid on Rep. Sue Schmitz's home was even more outrageous. I'll let Bob Martin of The Montgomery Independent bring you up to speed on Alice Martin.

While this mess might have a bonus for some of the GOP persuasion to discredit the Democratic Party in Alabama, it is also appropriate for digging to continue. I started this post noting how higher education might be corrupted when corporations get involved, not that we don't see corporate corruption in plenty of other places, yet I'm perfectly steamed over what appears to have occurred up on Goat Hill and around this state with our JuCos, ADECA funds, non-profits and the like. Here's hoping Brett Blackledge and others will keep scratching about.

If public education funds in this state have been used in this manner then this former teacher is flat out disgusted. People that hear or read about this sort of thing will naturally lose trust in what good can come from grant programs and government in general. Alabama has enough to try to overcome without this.

Additional damage can come if in fact the GOP is able to effectively get voters to associate the Alabama Democratic Party with corrupt politicians. While I'm often a fierce partisan, I'll admit there's plenty here that disturbs me about several Democratic "leaders", both past and present. However, the policy positions of the GOP seldom if ever appeal to me and I'd like to think I'm sophisticated enough in being able to figure out who to vote for anyhow. Then again, I often don't have candidates I care that much for anyhow. There are exceptions of course.

I've long believed the Alabama Democratic Party needs to so ofter stop trying to be Republican Lite yet they may also want to cull a few from their ranks. A purge may be long overdue. Throw these jokers under the bus if they've done wrong. John Gunn

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