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February 26, 2003

Seven AIDB board members dismissed by governor

From: Daily Home Online, AL - 26 Feb 2003

By Michael Seale

For four newly appointed members of the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind Board of Trustees who attended their first board meeting last week, may have attended their last meeting as members of the board.

Gov. Bob Riley's office sent letters to seven board members stating that their services would no longer be needed.

After former governor Don Siegelman lost his bid for re-election to Riley in November, Siegelman replaced board members Dr. Annas Aytch, Eddie Thomas, Bill Latham and Lottie Mae Smith with Ronnie Garrett, Lynwood French, Amy Burks and Chipper Dobbs.

Board members Jackie Smith, Bunny Gamble and Morris Savage were re-appointed to the board by Siegelman.

However, all seven of those board members were sent the same letter by Riley spokesman Toby Roth.

"I received a letter from Riley's office yesterday dismissing me from the board," French said. "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.

"Needless to say I am disappointed to not get this opportunity."

Riley's office did not contact AIDB President Dr. Terry Graham about the changes, but Graham was informed Monday by some of the dismissed board members about the letters they received.

The letter sent by Roth thanked the seven board members for their participation, but informed them that their services "were no longer needed."

With the dismissal of the seven board members, the board cannot establish a quorum, which means the institute has no governing body.

Riley's press secretary Pepper Bryars said the board members and Graham must have "misunderstood" the letter, and added that Riley technically did not "dismiss" these appointees because they were never official board members.

"These seven board members were nominees, not appointees," Bryars said. "They are not official board members until they are approved by the Senate."

Bryars added, "We have withdrawn all of the former administration's appointments."

Bryars said some or all of the seven board members dismissed may be nominated by Riley next week.

In the meantime, Bryars said if an executive decision needs to be made by the board, the nominees Riley will announce during next week's legislative session will be temporarily placed on the board and will serve until they are officially confirmed by the Senate.

Bryars said Riley has a special interest in the institute, having served as the Third Congressional District representative in the U.S. Congress, and wanted to make his own appointments to the board.

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

Sen. Jim Preuitt, a Democrat, said he was not pleased with the manner in which the governor has handled this situation.

"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."

Although Bryars said this type of action is a standard procedure during a change of administration, Preuitt said an occurrence such as this is unprecedented.

"This is definitely not the norm," Preuitt said. "When it comes down to it, AIDB is about serving kids, and we need to keep politics at arm's length from this."

Preuitt continued, "I spoke with (Riley) after he was elected and he told me he would be the most non-partisan governor this state had ever seen. I don't think this situation is remotely close to being non-partisan."

Preuitt said he is under the impression that Riley's appointments to the board will be announced when the Legislature goes into session March 4, and the Senate will confirm them next week.

Preuitt added that he hopes this turn of events is not an indication of how the Riley administration will conduct its business.

"If this is an indication of how state government will operate under this administration, it will be a long and rocky four years," Preuitt said.

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