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Lawmaker's work with 2-year college system questioned

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — A state legislator who was hired in 2003 as a two-year college system employee has said part of her nearly $50,000-a-year job was to use her position as a lawmaker to work for funding of the college program that hired her, The Birmingham News reported.

Rep. Sue Schmitz, D-Toney, was hired to work with CITY Skills Training Consortium after asking then-Chancellor Roy Johnson for a job in the system that would provide a flexible work schedule, the newspaper said in a story Sunday.

She lost the contract in October after CITY program officials said they could not identify her job duties.

At one point Schmitz, seeking to hold the CITY post, provided the system with reports that mentioned meetings with legislators as evidence of her work for the program.

"During February, I have met with senators and representatives that represent each of the ten program areas," she wrote in a February 2006 report.

"I also have had meetings with the budget committee members to discuss the CITY program funding needs and have received reassurance that those needs will be considered in the budget process."

The News said records show she included references to discussions with fellow legislators in three monthly reports she submitted in 2006.

Schmitz also listed on time sheets the days she was in Montgomery during the session as days she worked for the program, the News said.

She listed working eight hours for the program on each of 36 days she was in session, records show.

"Every day the Legislature is in session, I am doing some work," Schmitz said.

Before her hiring with the two-year college system, Schmitz had been a teacher in Madison County.

but quit after school officials decided she would have to take leave without pay for days when she was in Montgomery during the legislative session.

She is now appealing to be rehired by the CITY program, which provides training and education for youthful offenders. Schmitz argues she was fired unfairly, while CITY program officials say they simply chose not to renew her contract.

The News said records show that Larry Palmer, a former manager of the CITY program, said he could not identify Schmitz's job duties or work she had done, or complete time sheets identifying when she worked.

"I came to understand that she was indeed working with us, but I was never really clear on exactly what her role was," Palmer wrote in a memo to Edward Lane, the current CITY program director.

"What they hired me to do, I was doing," Schmitz told The Birmingham News. "I am challenging their decision and I intend to win."

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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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