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State school board members renew calls for Culverhouse's removal

By Desiree Hunter
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — At least three members of the state school board are reiterating concerns about having Renee Culverhouse as interim two-year chancellor and say they will vote against approving her contract when the board meets later this month.

Stephanie Bell of Montgomery, Betty Peters of Dothan and Randy McKinney of Gulf Shores said Friday they will urge other members to vote to replace Culverhouse, who was named interim chancellor on March 2 after a 5-3 vote.

Bell, Peters and McKinney cast the three "no" votes against Culverhouse's hiring in March and said details about her involvement in a suspicious property sale at Shelton State have heightened their concerns.

"I know my hope is that we can find someone else," Bell said Friday. "I didn't think she was appropriate to serve then and I certainly don't think she is now. I'm on record with wanting to replace her now and I understand there's some concern from the governor as well."

Messages left for Gov. Bob Riley and other members of the board were not immediately returned Friday. By office, Riley is the president of the board.

A secretary in Culverhouse's office said the interim chancellor was out of town Friday and would not return until Tuesday.

It's the second time Culverhouse, who is president of Gadsden State Community College, is serving as chancellor. She did so after former Chancellor Roy Johnson's contract was terminated last July. She was called back after former interim Chancellor Thomas Corts resigned on Feb. 28.

The board is scheduled to discuss a contract for Culverhouse's time as interim chancellor at its work session next week. The board's next scheduled meeting, where a vote would be taken, is April 26.

Gail Phillips, 58, and her daughter, Melinda Sexton, 31, were convicted Thursday of theft and conspiracy for using an outdated appraisal to buy a house from Shelton State Community College for $45,000, which was half its real value. The women had used $20,000 of state money to renovate the vacant and run down house, which bumped its value to $92,000.

Phillips and Sexton are employees at the Alabama Fire College, which is on Shelton State's Tuscaloosa campus.

The Birmingham News reported Friday that testimony in the case revealed that Culverhouse recommended the sale of the home to Sexton and Phillips when she was the system's lawyer in 2001.

Culverhouse forwarded Sexton's purchase offer to the state school board with only the outdated appraisal justifying the $45,000 price, which was in violation of the system's policy requiring a second appraisal before property is sold.

Peters said she would rather Culverhouse resign and spare the board having to take action against her.

"Although I personally like her and I think she's very smart, I don't think it's going to work for six or seven or eight months or however long it's going to take for us to find a permanent chancellor," she said.

"At the rate things are going, I just don't think that's going to work. It's not a personal thing. It's just for the good of the system."

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

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