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Auburn senator didn't commit ethics violation, state director reports

MONTGOMERY (AP)— The state's ethics director said there appears to be no ethics law problem with a state senator being paid nearly $6,000 a year by a private military school that receives state funding through bills he sponsors.

Jim Sumner, executive director of the State Ethics Commission, said he met with state Sen. Ted Little, D-Auburn, after the Opelika-Auburn News reported Little's long-standing relationship with Lyman Ward Military Academy in Camp Hill. They discussed Little's arrangement and the state ethics law, which prohibits public officials from using their public office for personal gain.

"Our opinion was it didn't appear to be a use of office for personal gain," Sumner said in an interview Wednesday.

Little has been on the payroll at Lyman Ward since 1988 and has received the same pay of $665 a month for nine months since then to lecture at the school on government issues at least once a month, to attend various events, including graduation, and to talk to parents of prospective students.

Little has served two different stints in the Legislature. Sumner said Little got hired to lecture in 1988, when he was not in the Legislature, and his pay of $5,985 annually has not changed since then. Little, who returned to the Legislature in 1990, has reported his income from Lyman Ward every year on the financial disclosure statements he filed with the Ethics Commission, Sumner said.

Little said Thursday he took the job at Lyman Ward after losing the 1986 race for state treasurer. "After I lost that race, I was in debt. I had two children to raise, a law practice to restart, and a wife who had been diagnosed with cancer," he said.

Little, who had previously taught part time at Auburn University, said he decided to return to teaching part time to support his family. He subsequently lectured and worked in community development at Chattahoochee Valley Community College, a state two-year college in Phenix City, but that relationship ended in 2005, he said.

Each year, Little sponsors the bill in the Legislature to provide state funding to Lyman Ward. Little said it's traditional for legislators to sponsor bills affecting their districts, and he always introduces the amount proposed by the governor.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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