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Hunt should earn pay, Riley says

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Gov. Bob Riley has never appointed former Gov. Guy Hunt to an $18,000-a-year position as governor’s councilor because he says Hunt hasn’t been in a position to work for the money.

Hunt, a Primitive Baptist preacher from Cullman County, says he and Riley have exchanged pleasantries at various events but have never talked about the councilor’s position.

“I’ve never had any private discussions with him at all,” Hunt said.

Whatever the situation, the state senator from Hunt’s home county is now pushing legislation to make the appointment automatic and to double the pay to $36,000 annually.

“It will take it out of the political process so that it’s not a decision of a sitting governor,” Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman, said.

A state law, originally passed in 1977 to help former Gov. James E. “Big Jim” Folsom, allows a governor to appoint a former two-term governor who is at least 60 years old to the position of “governor’s councilor.” An $18,000 salary comes with the advisory post.

When Hunt was governor, he gave an appointment to four-term Gov. George C. Wallace. Hunt says he kept in touch with Wallace, but it was more out of respect than needing political counsel.

Riley, who’s starting his second term, expresses sympathy for “the very difficult time” Hunt is having, but he says Hunt has never been in a position to work in return for pay.

“We talked about it a couple of times, and each time it was very difficult for the former governor at that time because of his wife’s health and because of his health for him to be able to schedule any time. And because of that, I have some reservations about whether or not ... you should put anyone on the state payroll where you didn’t receive a direct benefit to the state from whatever their job was,” Riley said.

Whatever his job performance ability now, the 73-year-old former governor has earned a place in Alabama history books. In 1986, he was elected as Alabama’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction.

He was re-elected in 1990, but lost his office in 1993 due to an ethics conviction for converting inaugural funds to his personal use. He got a state pardon in 1998 that allowed him to run for office again, but he lost races for governor and state senator.

The last few years have been tough for Hunt. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2004 and had part of his right lung removed. His first wife, Helen, died that year after a long battle with pulmonary fibrosis. He remarried in 2005.

Hunt married longtime family friend Anne Smith in 2005, but then suffered another setback in 2006 when his cancer returned. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

Before serving as governor, Hunt served 12 years as Cullman County’s probate judge. From that, he receives a state pension of $8,700 annually.

There is no state retirement plan for Alabama’s governors.

When Riley finishes his second term, he will qualify for appointment to the councilor’s job. He will also qualify for a congressional pension from his six years in the U.S. House.

Legislators tried during Riley’s first term to get him to appoint Hunt as councilor, including the Senate passing a resolution in 2006 and a majority of the Legislature signing a petition in 2005.

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

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