Circuit judge blocks AEA's restraining order against senator
By M.J. Ellington
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MONTGOMERY — The State Board of Education member whose district includes Calhoun Community College said she supports a Baldwin County Republican senator for two-year college chancellor because of his skill, not politics.
The selection took a step forward Wednesday when Montgomery County Circuit Judge Gene Reese refused to grant an Alabama Education Association request for a restraining order to keep the senator from taking the job.
The board expects to approve Sen. Bradley Byrne's employment contract as permanent chancellor of the two-year college system at its monthly post-secondary board meeting Thursday. After the meeting, Byrne, R-Fairhope, said he expects to walk across the street and formally resign from the Senate.
AEA charged that the board violated the state's open meetings law and its own employee hiring policies when it voted to hire Byrne without an open search and after secret discussions about the Byrne proposal. The judge did not agree. Most board members denied the accusations.
Board member Mary Jane Caylor, D-Huntsville, said although Gov. Bob Riley phoned her before the called May 9 meeting where he proposed Byrne, there were no secret negotiations among board members about the matter beforehand. The board voted to hire Byrne two days later at a called emergency meeting for that purpose.
"Politics is not a factor in my decision," Caylor said. "My decision was based on knowing Bradley Byrne and knowing he could do the job. I believe he is the right person to lead the system at this time."
Caylor said Byrne will bring stability to the system, which has had four chancellors in less than one year and continues to deal with the effects of an ongoing federal investigation of the system.
"You cannot make decisions that need to be made right now about personnel issues and work force development programs if you are not here next week, next month, next year," Caylor said.
Meanwhile, Byrne, who had not yet seen his proposed employment contract for the new position, said he does not expect any problems with the contract.
Byrne said Wednesday that he expects his employment to be finalized by the time the education board completes its monthly post-secondary meeting Thursday.
Byrne said he looks forward to being more involved with the different colleges and called Calhoun's role as the system's largest college extremely important.
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