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Rep. Davis takes exception to Governor Riley's remarks

MONTGOMERY (AP) — U.S. Rep. Artur Davis took exception Wednesday to Gov. Bob Riley's remarks about Davis' use of an employee paid by Alabama's two-year college system.

"While the junior college system has become the subject of a partisan political turf war, it is surprising to me that your administration has sought to drag my office into the fray," the Birmingham Democrat wrote in a letter to the governor that Davis released to the media.

In response, Riley spokesman Jeff Emerson said, "We don't understand why Congressman Davis somehow believes the governor had anything to do with the revelation that his office employed someone who was paid by a community college. ... The governor does, however, disagree with Congressman Davis that the scandals in the two-year system are merely a partisan political turf war."

On Tuesday, Riley said Alabama's two-year colleges should not be paying the salaries of political appointees working for elected officials.

The Republican governor's comments came after news
reports about two-year colleges paying the salary of Gina Bailey McKell when she worked in Gov. Don Siegelman's office and then in Davis' office. McKell, the cousin of Siegelman's former executive secretary, was paid more than $72,000 annually for five years while working for Siegelman and Davis.

She also worked a few months for Riley in the governor's office in 2003 before going to Davis' office.

Davis wrote that there was no cloud around the junior college system when McKell worked in his office and that congressional rules permit government agencies to loan staffers to work in congressional offices.

"Your opinion that, as a matter of public policy, junior colleges should not loan employees outside the system is wrong in at least the context of my office. I am also not appreciative of your suggestion that the 'credibility that the system needs' was impaired by McKell's role in my office," Davis wrote.

Riley said Tuesday he didn't know until recently how McKell was paid when she worked in his office.

Riley said he doesn't oppose short-term appointments of state workers to other agencies. His office has engaged in that practice, including using an Auburn University lobbyist to help Riley's staff lobby during a legislative session last year and a two-year college employee to help develop new budgeting procedures.

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

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