Universities ordered to disclose pass-through pork requests

MONTGOMERY, AL - Presidents of Alabama's colleges and universities will have to notify Governor Bob Riley if elected officials try to use their institutions for pass-through pork.

In a memorandum addressed to all four-year institution presidents, Governor Bob Riley said he is requiring them to disclose by Nov. 16 and every three months for the rest of this fiscal year if public officials try to use their institutions as conduits for pass-through pork.

"Pass-through pork is corrupt, it's wrong and it's an abuse of the taxpayers.  No government official should be able to take taxpayer money that is appropriated for one use and secretly spend it for something else.  We've fought pass-through pork since the beginning of my administration, and now we need to take that fight to our colleges and universities since legislators are trying to make them accomplices in their fraudulent schemes," Governor Riley said.

The new disclosure requirement comes after Governor Riley recently became aware of - and stopped - an attempt by one or more legislators to secretly take $1.89 million of funds appropriated for the University of Alabama and transfer them to the Department of Education.  UA President Robert Witt requested an attorney general's opinion on whether the transfer of funds would be legal.  The attorney general's office released an advisory opinion saying the transfer could not take place without the approval of either the governor or state finance director.

The Governor's office says there are still many questions surrounding the incident, including the identity of the legislator or legislators involved and why they tried to hide the spending in the university's budget.

The Governor's office says it has fought against pass-through pork since Riley first came into office. In his memo to the presidents, the Governor noted that he signed an executive order in 2003 to ban the practice among state agencies and that the state school board voted in 2007 to ban pass-through pork in the two-year college system.

Since legislators can no longer use state agencies or the two-year system as pass-throughs to secretly direct spending elsewhere, they evidently are trying to use four-year colleges and universities as tools for their pass-through pork projects.

"Now those who want to continue this practice have turned their eyes to Alabama's esteemed four-year institutions as a means of carrying out their schemes.  Our four-year institutions need to stand against this unethical practice," the Governor wrote in the memo to the presidents.

Governor Riley cites a section of the Alabama Constitution that allows him to require such information in writing and under oath.

The disclosures must include all requests made directly or indirectly to any employee or administrator of the institution and requests communicated on behalf of an elected official by or through a third person.  The disclosures will have to be made quarterly to cover spending appropriated by the Legislature under the Fiscal Year 2010 education budget.  The first disclosure from college and university presidents is due Nov. 16.

Information Source: Governor Bob Riley's office