Rep. Sue Schmitz testifies in own defense

DECATUR, Ala. (AP) - State Rep. Sue Schmitz told jurors in her fraud trial Thursday that she took a job in the two-year college system to stay in the teachers' retirement system.

A Democrat from Toney, Schmitz is accused of using her influence as a legislator to get the job in a program that mentors troubled teenagers and then rarely showing up for work as she collected $177,000 over three years.

She told the federal court jury in Decatur that she mentioned needing a job to everyone she knew in education, including Alabama Education Association chief Paul Hubbert. She quoted Hubbert as saying, "he would keep it in mind." Schmitz said the main reason she wanted a job was so she could remain in the teacher's retirement system for a few more years.

She was a social studies teacher at Sparkman High School, but was forced to look for a job when the Madison County school board in 2002 said she could not continue to pay a substitute to teach her classes while she was attending legislative meetings in Montgomery.

Schmitz said she never asked the state education budget be raised so she could have a job. "I would never do that," she said.

She said if Alabama House Speaker Seth Hammett said that, it's "just not true."

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)