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Riley seeks meeting on tenure of 2-year chancellor

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Gov. Bob Riley hopes to attend a meeting soon to help resolve "communication problems" between Alabama Board of Education members and Postsecondary Chancellor Thomas Corts, brought in to clean up a mess in the state's two-year colleges, an aide said Friday.

Some board members have expressed dissatisfaction with Corts, but Riley "believes Dr. Corts is the right person for the job," said Riley spokesman Jeff Emerson.

Riley hopes for a board meeting he can attend "within the next couple of weeks" to discuss apparent communication problems with Corts, Emerson said. A special meeting is possible, he said.

"Dr. Corts probably needs to communicate more with the board, and the board probably needs to communicate more with Dr. Corts," said Emerson.

Two board members instrumental in bringing Corts into the chancellor's job said Thursday they now have concerns about his performance.

"I think that there's a very high level of concern among most, if not all, board members about Dr. Corts," said Republican David Byers of Birmingham, who sold a reluctant Corts on taking the job. "I think there's a communication problem between Dr. Corts and the board."

Byers, who represents Morgan County, said resolving problems at Bishop State Community College in Mobile tops his list of things that Corts should have accomplished quickly.

Board Vice President Sandra Ray, who represents Lawrence County, described "a growing impatience with Dr. Corts."

Board member Ella Bell of Montgomery went to Thursday's board meeting prepared to air a list of concerns she and other board members share about Corts' job performance but backed off after the governor's office sought a delay. She said Corts has done little to help her district, which includes Alabama's impoverished Black Belt.

Since taking over in August with the two-year system in turmoil, Corts has taken steps to resolve some controversies. He has crafted a new policy for hiring relatives of system employees, developed a hot line for tips about ethical problems, canceled lobbying contracts at schools and sent administrative teams to investigate problems at some campuses.

The president of Northwest-Shoals Community College, Humphrey Lee, said Thursday he appeared before a federal grand jury investigating the two-year system. Lee said the grand jury's questions "were pretty comprehensive and covered broad categories," but there were no questions directly about Cort's predecessor, Roy Johnson.

Johnson indicated he does not expect to be indicted.

"I've lived 61 years and never have been accused of a crime beyond a speeding ticket," Johnson told the New York Times Regional Newspapers. "I don't have any reason to expect it."

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Information from: The Birmingham News

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

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