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Opelika exec makes plea in 2-year college bribery case

By Jay Reeves
Associated Press Writer

BIRMINGHAM — An executive with a company that did more than $9 million in business with Alabama's two-year colleges agreed to plead guilty in a bribery scheme involving former Chancellor Roy Johnson, whom prosecutors said Tuesday received perks including $16,000 worth of window shutters and furnishings for two condominiums.

Timothy Neal Turnham, 57, of Opelika also agreed to help with a continuing probe of the Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education during Johnson's tenure.

Johnson has not been accused of any crime, but officials indicated more charges are coming.

"We are closer today to reaching higher-ups," U.S. Attorney Alice Martin said during a news conference.

Turnham agreed to plead guilty to one count of obstruction of justice. He was an owner and vice president of Alabama Contract Sales, which admitted that it committed bribery and agreed to pay about $900,000 in restitution but won't be prosecuted provided it assists investigators and commits no more violations.

Turnham worked in the business with his father, former state Rep. Pete Turnham, and he is brother of Joe Turnham, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party. Martin said Tim Turnham had taken responsibility for the bribes and told investigators that he, not others, had the connection to Johnson.

Johnson was fired last year as head of Alabama's two-year college system, but he has denied breaking any laws. An attorney for Johnson did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

A supplier of building furnishings including chairs, Alabama Contract Services saw its business with Postsecondary Education grow from about $37,000 in 2002 to $3.9 million last year, prosecutors said. The company did $9 million in business with the system from 2002 through July 2006.

Johnson told Turnham to overbill colleges to hide items that were really meant for him, court documents claim.

Authorities said Turnham admitted providing Johnson with items including window treatments worth more than $16,000 and more than $10,000 worth of furniture.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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