Worley in new wrangle
Questions raised over refinishing of Democratic Party desk at state technical college
By M.J. Ellington
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MONTGOMERY — State Democratic Party Vice Chairman Nancy Worley said she was a public employee when she took a desk from Democratic Party headquarters to be refinished at a technical college.
But the date on the work form is March 12, two months after her state employment ended.
On another form with her signature, there is acknowledgement that the property in question, which also included a bench, is the personal property of the person who signed the form and will be kept "on my premises."
Worley stopped being a public employee Jan. 15, when her term as secretary of state ended. The desk she took to the Deatsville campus of J.F. Ingram Technical College belongs to the state Democratic Party and not to her.
But Worley said she called the college more than two months ago. She said she asked if the students could refinish the desk that belongs to the party and her personal wooden bench that she plans to use in the party office as well. She said the worn mid-20th century wooden desk had a leather top that was cracked and made writing at the desk difficult.
"I told them in the beginning that the desk belongs to the party," she said.
Worley said she finally got a call about two weeks ago that the technical college students could do the refinishing.
Ingram President J. Douglas Chambers said Worley, as a retired public school teacher receiving state retirement, is eligible to have the refinishing work done, even if she no longer is a public official. Worley taught Latin and English at Decatur High School.
Chambers said the college does not publicize the fact that it will take items from education retirees because there would be too many requests. However, he said, if he had known the desk belonged to the party, he would not have accepted it.
Democratic Party Executive Director Jim Spearman said Worley asked about the possibility of having the desk refinished weeks ago.
"She asked me originally if it would be possible to have it refinished up there," Spearman said. "I told her I did not think so because we are not a state agency or a charity."
Spearman said Worley said, "We do have 'state' in our name, don't we?"
The official name of the party organization is State Democratic Executive Committee, Spearman said.
The day that Worley took the desk for refinishing, Spearman said, he was in a meeting and, though he was aware of Worley's plan to have it refinished, did not see it removed.
"I did not know where she ended up taking it," Spearman said.
In January, Worley unseated long-term Decatur resident Amy Burks for the party post in an acrimonious contest with the aid of Joe Reed, associate executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association, and Paul Hubbert, executive secretary of the AEA. Burks held the post 16 years. It carries a seat on the Democratic National Committee.
Paperwork at the college shows that Worley paid a $171.94 deposit in advance, representing 75 percent of the cost to refinish the wooden desk and a wooden bench delivered to the Elmore County facility. She will pay the remaining $54.20 when the project is completed.
On the backside of the Live Work Contract Form describing the job, Worley's signature is also on an "Agreement" that lists four categories eligible to receive work from the college.
The agreement reads:
"I hereby represent or affirm that the work being performed is for: (Check One)
"1. A tax supported program and institution.
"2. A public employee.
"3. A student in the two-year college system.
"4. A charitable organization supported by donations."
The agreement with Worley's signature has a checkmark in the category "A public employee."
A signature for Nancy L. Worley follows at the bottom of the agreement just beneath a sentence in all capital letters that reads: "I CERTIFY THAT THIS IS MY OWN PERSONAL PROPERTY TO BE KEPT ON MY PREMISES."
Worley said she made it clear from the beginning that the desk belonged to the party and not to her, and while she remembers signing some forms, she does not remember that wording.
Once refinished, the desk will go back to Worley's office at Democratic Party headquarters. She said she uses the office about three times per week in connection with her position as vice chairman.
When the college accepts projects, Chambers said, a key consideration is whether the person requesting the service meets the qualifications to use the service at the school. He said he did not know the desk and bench were at the school's refinishing department, but he believes the order fit guidelines. Chambers said he sometimes authorizes projects as well if students would benefit from working on the project.
The signature of Dean of Instruction James T. Merk is on the form authorizing the Worley project and Merk said he, too, believes it is appropriate.
Ingram is part of the state's two-year college system, but unlike other schools in the system, the college serves only inmates, including young men assigned to the Frank Lee Youth Facility adjacent to Ingram's chain link fence-enclosed main campus.
The technical college offers classes to inmates at five state corrections facilities in Elmore County. Inmates volunteer for hands-on work training as part of their prison work assignments.
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