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Byrne expects to resign from Senate today barring court intervention

By M.J. Ellington (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — State Sen. Bradley Byrne said he expects Wednesday to be his last day in the Senate unless a Montgomery County judge rules his selection as chancellor of the state's two-year college system was improper.

The state Board of Education appointed Byrne, R-Fairhope, on May 10. At the time, Alabama Education Association attorney Theron Stokes objected to Byrne's selection, which he said denied minority candidates and others an opportunity for consideration.

On Monday, AEA asked Montgomery County Circuit Judge Gene Reese for a restraining order to stop Byrne from taking office.

Gov. Bob Riley first proposed Byrne for the position during a May 8 state school board meeting called to discuss selecting a new chancellor. AEA's suit charges that the board violated its own policy of selecting chancellors only after a search.

An attorney for the board and the governor told Reese that Byrne was selected in an open meeting and that the plaintiffs are upset because they did not like the board's decision.

Late Tuesday, AEA Executive Secretary Paul Hubbert said Reese's decision could come by Wednesday. AEA's attorney notified Hubbert on Tuesday afternoon that Reese had asked for more information by later that afternoon.

Hubbert said that, no matter how the judge rules, Byrne could still end up as chancellor.

"They can do it right and still do the same thing," Hubbert said. "We were just defending the process."

Byrne said the board and Riley felt the system needed the stability a permanent chancellor would provide following the turmoil the system has experienced during the past year.

"I don't think you can effectively lead the system as interim," Byrne said.

He said the board is ready to move forward and help the system progress on a more stable footing. His selection process, he said, was similar to the selection of other chancellors.

Board member Ella Bell, D-Montgomery, objected to the board choosing Byrne without a search and, for that reason, was the only member who voted against him.

Byrne said Tuesday that he is a "big fan" of Bell. While he knows board members will not always agree, he expects disagreements to be on issues of policy.

Byrne served eight years on the state school board before his election to the Senate five years ago.

"One of the great things about the board when I was on it was that members voted on what was best for the system," Byrne said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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