Everything takes backseat to coach

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 10, 2002

MONTGOMERY&045; Only in Alabama would the departure of a football coach create such

a tempest. If it had happened a month ago, I wonder if any press coverage would have been given to an election that was held on Nov. 5.

I am tempted to say more about that subject but as the Bear used to say, &uot;My momma didn’t raise no idiots.&uot; You don’t mess with Mother Nature or with Tide and Tiger football fans.

Having said that, back to less important things such as funding public education, solving the prison crisis, etc.

Gov-elect Bob Riley is becoming much more visible as he looks to his new administration. He appeared at a legislative orientation session in Tuscaloosa where he was reminded one more time of the financial problems which await him.

Despite the desperate situation being left by his predecessor, Riley remained upbeat about what he hopes to achieve during the next four years.

Also Riley made the first of what will be many key appointments to his adminstration, naming his campaign manager, Toby Roth, as his chief of staff. Roth formerly worked for the Business Council of Alabama and has a law degree from William and Mary.

There has been talk that perhaps one or two Siegelman department heads may be asked to remain in their posts. Most frequently mentioned has been former State Rep. Bill Fuller, who currently is commissioner of the Department of Human Resources.

Riley has also indicated that blacks would be included even though their support of Siegelman in the election was near-unanimous.

On a related subject, Gov.-elect Riley has said thanks but no thanks to the suggestion that he and his family &uot;pull a Fob&uot; and not live in the Executive Mansion.

An organization known as Friends of the Governor’s Mansion have purchased a home next door to the mansion and urged Riley to live there.

Gov. Fob James chose not to live in the mansion during his first term (1979-83); instead buying a home several blocks away where he and his family lived.

Riley said he felt the people of Alabama expected him to live in the mansion, inconvenient though it may be.

The organization which bought the home next door would like to see the mansion become a combination museum and tourist attraction.

The lawyers who brought the suit which resulted in a court order that the Ten Commandments monument be removed from the State Judicial Building have submitted their bill &045; they want to be paid $704,000 for their work.

Chief Justice Roy Moore, the defendant in the suit, howled in protest at their bill.

&uot;I have learned not to be shocked by anything the plaintiffs’ lawyers do, but these are certainly outrageous bills,&uot; Moore said.

Moore’s legal expenses in this case are being paid by his supporters, but it is not clear who is expected to pay the fees of the opposing counsel.

I will admit that few things offend me more than greed … instances where people try to twist the rules to add a few more undeserved feathers to their nest.

It happens with disgusting frequency in the public sector.

It happened again last week.

The chief investigator for the district attorney in Pike and Coffee counties, Bruce DeVane, is nearing retirement.

Under the rules established by the State Retirement System, benefits are calculated on the highest salary paid during a three-year period.

In 1999, DeVane was paid about $80,000 a year, but then suddenly his salary was boosted to $152,000 the following year, then back to $80,000 in 2001.

In dollars and cents, this one-time raise would have increased his retirement benefits by about $1,000 a month.

If DeVane lived a normal life span … he is 49 … this would have cost the RSA … which is to say it would have cost the taxpayers … about $300,000.

The situation was not helped by the fact that the district attorney who approved this bit of game-playing was Mark Fuller, who only recently was named a U. S. District Judge.

The story had a happy ending, however. The RSA board took a look at this smelly situation and said no way.

The board said the extra pay DeVane received in 2000 was overtime and could not be used to boost his pension