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Corts reportedly released millions in funds
Board members say 2-year college interim chancellor gave schools money on last day on job

By M.J. Ellington 334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — On his last day as chancellor of the state's two-year college system, Thomas Corts reportedly released millions of dollars in discretionary funding.

The money is believed to have been appropriated in 2006 by the state Legislature for Corts' predecessor, Roy Johnson, to spend on discretionary projects at the colleges.

Corts could not be reached Thursday, but one state Board of Education member said she had received confirmation about one $17 million expenditure. Another member said she had seen nothing on paper but had heard similar reports all day.

Corts submitted his resignation effective immediately to Gov. Bob Riley on Wednesday, and board member Ethel Hall, D-Fairfield, said she heard that the funds were released to other state programs before Corts turned in the resignation.

Hall said she understood that if the money was from the fund the Legislature appropriated to Johnson, it was for special projects at the colleges. "At this point, I can neither confirm nor deny anything about the situation, but it is certainly something that is likely to come up again," Hall said. "In the first place, I don't believe a chancellor should be able to spend that kind of money without it coming through us, but we do not know enough about this situation to say for sure."

The Board of Education, which oversees the two-year college system, meets at 2 p.m. Friday to discuss Corts' resignation and appoint someone on an interim basis to run the system's day-to-day operations. Hall said the funding issue isn't included in the call for the special meeting, so it isn't likely to come up then.

State Board of Education member Stephanie Bell, R-Montgomery, said late Thursday that she had confirmation that $17 million of the money went from post-secondary education to Alabama Industrial Development Training, which operates job training education programs. Bell said she was still trying to get confirmation late Thursday about other amounts that apparently went to at least two other state departments.

At board work sessions over the past few months, Corts repeatedly told the board about funding promises made before he took the job. He expressed concern that what appeared on the surface to be money for special projects at two-year colleges was already promised elsewhere.

Riley's communications director, Jeff Emerson, said he had no knowledge of Corts' actions. Post-secondary Vice Chancellor for Fiscal and Administrative Services Debra Dahl did not return calls from The Daily.

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