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Prosecutors eye ex-chancellor’s Opelika house

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — Federal prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of former two-year college Chancellor Roy Johnson’s $1.3 million home in Opelika, saying he took at least $300,000 in payments from contractors after allegedly setting up state contracts for them.

The filing in Birmingham federal court calls Johnson’s actions “a bribery scheme” that makes his home subject to forfeiture under federal law.

The forfeiture complaint filed Friday marks the first time prosecutors have named Johnson publicly in the ongoing criminal investigation of the state’s two-year college system. He has not been charged with any crime.

His attorney, Joe Espy of Montgomery, did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday.

According to the filing, Johnson became involved in a scheme to fund the construction of his family’s new home by soliciting money from individuals and contractors who did business with the state’s two-year college system. Prosecutors said Johnson used his influence to secure state contracts valued at more than $5,000 for these individuals and businesses in exchange for money he received directly or through third parties.

“Specifically, on numerous occasions Johnson directed these contractors to overcharge the State on contract work to generate funds to `kickback’ to Johnson or to reimburse said contractors for money they had already given Johnson,” the filing states.

It was first reported Wednesday by The Birmingham News.

A lien on Johnson’s home was filed Monday in Lee County, notifying any prospective buyers of the federal government’s intentions to take the property.

Johnson was given a new four-year contract in July 2005, but it was terminated by the state school board on July 11 when they placed him on eight-months administrative leave amid concerns over a corruption probe and nepotism issues.

He had still technically been the system’s chancellor until he was fired with cause on Nov. 9 after board members said he had misled them about a $862,500 contract to purchase adult education software. Johnson has disputed the claims used to fire him.

The Birmingham News reported earlier this year that Anniston architect Julian Jenkins designed Johnson’s new home and did not require him to pay the nearly $35,000 in fees. Jenkins, whose firm has received millions in system contracts, said he agreed to allow Johnson to pay him whenever the house was sold.

The News also reported that Johnson arranged contracts at two community colleges for painters who worked on his home, a 4,600-square-foot brick house with white trim and white columns on three acres in the Sanders Creek subdivision. The newspaper also said an Opelika business that provides window treatments worked on several of Johnson’s properties but was paid by Alabama Contract Sales, not Johnson, and that Alabama Contract Sales has received millions in system contracts.

Prosecutors said at least five individuals or entities “performed extensive architectural design, construction work, and/or provided furnishings for Johnson’s personal residence” from January 2004 through January 2005.

“These individuals or entities also provided furniture, installation of major home appliances and a multi-room home entertainment system,” the filing states. Prosecutors said the value of the work and materials is at least $300,000.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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