News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Riley gets credit for forcing end to ALDOT suit

The racial discrimination lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Transportation is another notch in Gov. Bob Riley's political belt. When he took office four years ago, the governor inherited a two-decades-old case that was costing the state $63,000 in contempt fines every week.

That was in addition to all of the lawyer and consultant fees going out.

The most critical part of the case ended Dec. 31 when the consent decree that then-Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. brokered in 1994 ended in agreement between all the principal parties. But ending discrimination proved difficult within the racial culture of the day.

There still are individual cases resulting from the original suit to settle, but the end of the decree means the department can go back to working without all of the legal restrictions and the added expenses.

The legal journey to the present cost the state more than $200 million but along the way the department learned that racial discrimination belongs to another age.

Like the cases the governor helped end against state mental health hospitals and Alabama universities, the ALDOT case should never have been necessary nor should it have lingered.

Cases of this nature tend to drag on, but the governor gets credit for being the catalyst who ended the suits.

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