Two-year College Chancellor to Employees: Avoid Foundations

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The chancellor of Alabama's two-year college system has told employees to divorce themselves from private foundations with ties to the colleges.

In the wake of a corruption case, Chancellor Roy Johnson said he wants to keep the funds and actions of the foundations separate from college business.

The action comes as state Rep. Bryant Melton, D-Tuscaloosa, has agreed to plead guilty to funneling his legislative grants to the Alabama Fire College Foundation and then using the money to pay gambling debts.

"Every step possible to ensure that foundation funds and business are completely separate from college business must be taken," Johnson wrote to Alabama College System presidents.

Melton, who worked at Shelton State Communitye College, originally said he funneled much of his grant money into medical school scholarships for his daughter. Melton has now agreed to plead guilty to federal and state charges that he cashed the scholarship checks to pay gambling debts.

Johnson has told two-year system employees to quit serving on foundation boards, according to a report Monday in New York Times Regional newspapers in Alabama. Johnson's order allows college presidents or their designees to remain on foundation boards as advisory, nonvoting members.

In Melton's case, he is accused of funneling $85,000 of his legislative grant appropriations to the Alabama Fire College Foundation beginning in 2000 and another $10,000 to the Shelton State Community College Foundation. The Alabama Fire College is located at Shelton State in Tuscaloosa.

U.S. Attorney Alice Martin said Melton has admitted he used $68,000 of the $85,000 largely for gambling debts.

Melton has agreed to plead guilty to theft of federal funds, money laundering and to a state ethics charge, Martin and Attorney General Troy King said. He had been suspended and will not be returning to his position at Shelton State. He also will be forced to leave the Legislature when his plea agreement is agreed to in court.

State school board member Sandra Ray said she hopes allegations involving Melton and the Alabama Fire College Foundation do not tarnish the other 20 or so foundations, which support scholarships and capital projects at two-year colleges.

"We have good citizens on these boards who do good work," Ray said. "I don't want them to be tainted by the same brush."

The foundations, much like those of four-year colleges, control millions of dollars, have hefty investments and even own property such as the homes of college presidents.

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