News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Double-dipping teacher example of system abuse

The relationship between state Rep. Sue Schmitz, D-Toney, and the two-year college system is a good argument for why voters should stop sending schoolteachers to the Legislature.

In her case, it was double-dipping until she lost her contract in October.

The former teacher hitched on with the two-year system in 2003 at nearly $50,000. But to do what?

The Birmingham News, which uncovered the scandals in the system, reported that a former manager of the CITY Skills Training Consortium said he didn't know what she did for the program. Larry Palmer wrote in a memo to his successor that he was never clear on her role.

Fired two-year chancellor Roy Johnson knew the value of having a legislator on his payroll. When she asked for a job with flexible hours, he hired her. She'd already quit her teaching job in Madison County because school officials said she couldn't get pay for days she was in Montgomery as a legislator.

But as a contract worker for Mr. Johnson, she could. One of the jobs, she said, was to lobby fellow legislators to fund the program that hired her.

That sounds awfully much like a conflict of interest.

And, according to The News, she did much of her lobbying on days she was already in Montgomery for the Legislature's regular session.

"Every day the Legislature is in session, I am doing some work," she said.

Indeed she was. She billed CITY for eight hours for each of the 36 days of the previous legislative session, while drawing legislative pay.

Voters are supposed to be smart, so it is probably fair to say they simply did not know about her pay arrangement.

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