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Fired ex-chancellor denies civil claims

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Fired two-year college Chancellor Roy Johnson, in a bid to save his $1.3 million home from being seized by the government, denied federal prosecutors' claims that he used $300,000 in contractor kickbacks to build it.

Johnson's response to prosecutors trying to seize the Opelika home came in a U.S. District Court filing Thursday in Montgomery by his lawyer, Joe Espy.

The court filing is Johnson's first response in court documents to the prosecutors' claims, which include an allegation that he participated in a fraud scheme from 2002 to 2006.

In the civil action, prosecutors claim Johnson used the $300,000 to build the house in 2004. The government's complaint accuses Johnson of telling contractors who helped him to overcharge for their college system work so they could make payments to him.

Anniston architect Julian Jenkins designed Johnson's new house and did not require him to pay the nearly $35,000 in fees when it was finished. Jenkins, whose firm has received millions in system contracts, said he agreed to allow Johnson to pay him whenever the house was sold.

Johnson also arranged contracts at two community colleges for painters who worked on the house, college officials said.

Prosecutors gave notice last year in the forfeiture complaint that they intend to take his home, which he was trying to sell at the time for just under $1 million. A lien on the home has been filed in Lee County, notifying any prospective buyers of the government's intentions to take the property.

Espy's filing identified Johnson and his wife, Linda, as owners of the property, and Wachovia Bank as having a mortgage interest in the home.

"The material allegations of the complaint are denied," Espy's court filing said.

A team of state and federal prosecutors began their investigation in 2004 with the Alabama Fire College in Tuscaloosa, then expanded it to include other areas of the community college system, including issues relating to Johnson.

Last year's court filing by prosecutors characterizes accusations against Johnson as "theft or intentional misapplication of property" and "a bribery scheme."

The filing, submitted as a civil forfeiture action, states that prosecutors believe the actions make Johnson's home subject to forfeiture under federal law.

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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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