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February 26, 2003

Riley withdraws last-minute Siegelman appointments

From: Birmingham News, AL - 26 Feb 2003

The Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Republican Gov. Bob Riley is trying to undo many of the appointments made by Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman during his final days in office.

Riley has sent letters to more than 50 people nominated to public boards by Siegelman, but not yet confirmed by the state Senate, saying that their nominations had been withdrawn. Included are posts on the State Board of Education, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management board and seven members of the board of directors of the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind in Talladega.

Riley will renominate some, but not all, of those people next week, Deputy Press Secretary Pepper Bryars said.

"Some will. Some won't," Bryars said.

The two most high profile nominations withdrawn were the appointment of Pam Baker, Siegelman's children's affairs commissioner, to a vacant seat on the Alabama Board of Education, and Riley Boykin Smith, the Democratic governor's conservation commissioner and campaign manager, to a seat on the ADEM board.

Bryars said he could not speculate whether Smith and Baker would be replaced.

Bryars described the move as routine, saying nominations considered for confirmation by the Senate should be under the sitting governor's name. But some Democrats questioned Riley's motivation.

"If there's a legal basis, I've got no quarrel. If not, pandemonium," said Sen. E.B. McClain, chairman of the Senate's Confirmations Committee. "It doesn't make sense. Some of these people have already been serving. These are not the only people this governor will get to appoint."

The withdrawal of nominations puts the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind's board temporarily out of business. After losing the November election to Riley, Siegelman appointed four new members to the AIDB board and reappointed three board members.

The withdrawn nominations means the board does not have a quorum and can't conduct business until new members are appointed.

Bryars said if an emergency comes up that the board needs to deal with, Riley will temporarily appoint the people he plans to nominate for the board next week. He said Riley has a special interest in the institute because it is located in Talladega in the 3rd Congressional District, which he represented in Congress for six years.

"We wanted this done under Riley's signature, not just rubber stamping Siegelman's appointments," Bryars said.

Sen. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega, said he did not like the way the governor handled the AIDB board nominations.

"I would think that the people appointed would serve the institute very well," Preuitt said. "I am disturbed by the fact that the governor did this without notifying the new president of the institute and without talking to the legislative delegation."

One of the newly appointed board members, Lynwood French, said he is disappointed that he may not get to serve.

"I had just written Riley a note telling him that even though I was not appointed by him that I would be doing the best I could to help AIDB be the best place for people to work and for students to live and learn," French said.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved.