Riley’s move matched

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 25, 2003

MONTGOMERY &045; It will scarely make a dent in a multi-million dollar financial shortfall, but Gov. Bob Riley has announced he will take a five percent paycut as a way of showing his sympathy for state employees who have been told there will be no payraise for them this year.

If you are interested, his decision will save the state’s general fund $5,072 … which is five percent of his salary of $10l,433-a-year.

His decision came in the wake of a challenge from Mac McArthur, the head of the Alabama State Employees Association (ASEA).

In fact, ASEA ran a TV commercial critical of Riley for his no-payraise decision for state workers.

McArthur, who aspires to make the ASEA as politically powerful as the Alabama Education Association (AEA), also announced he was taking a five percent pay cut as well.

His salary reduction will save the employee union more than Riley’s cut will save the General Fund &045; McArthur makes $150,000-a-year.

Former Gov. Don Siegelman has repaid the state more than $33,000 for what were described as &uot;disallowed expenditures&uot; which were found in an audit of the Governor’s Contingency Fund.

One of the largest expenditures challenged by state auditors was for a Christmas vacation trip to the Virgin Islands by the Siegelman family in 1999. The state had picked up that tab of about $4,000, according to the report.

Another questionable expenditure which apparently was included in the re-payment was the purchase of clothing from The Gap … a chain of apparel stores … by Nick Bailey, a controversial member of the Siegelman cabinet.

State Finance Director Drayton Nabers says the decision of the Siegelman administration to pay $10 million for the abandoned Delphi Corp. plant in Athens was a waste of taxpayers’ money.

The state agreed to buy the building with the understanding that the firm would upgrade and create more jobs at a nearby plant. It never happened.

In fact, that plant may soon close as well.

While Nabers called the acquisition &uot;senseless,&uot; a spokesman for Siegelman said it was done to save jobs.

The death of Robert M. (Bobby) Shelton of Tuscaloosa a few days ago brought back vivid memories of a long-ago political campaign in Alabama.

In 1958, John Patterson and George Wallace were locked in a run-off for governor when I broke the story that Patterson’s campaign was being supported by Shelton, who was then the Imperial Wizard of the United Ku Klux Klan, the most powerful KKK group in the nation.

I was a political writer for Montgomery Advertiser at the time, and we ran on the front page a copy of a letter from Patterson thanking Shelton for his support.

My boss, editor Grover C. Hall, was convinced this revelation would turn the election around and lead to a Wallace victory, who the Advertiser had editorially endorsed. It didn’t.

In fact, I think the story actually gave impetus to the Patterson campaign.

In those troubling years, the voters were looking for the candidate who was strongest on preserving segregation.

Wallace obviously came to the same conclusion. With a vow that he would never be &uot;out-segged&uot; again … and that is not quite what he said … he came back in 1962 as a strident segregationist and won going away.

With the demise of the KKK in later years, Shelton faded from the limelight. He was 73 when he died last week.

While this old-timer is strolling down memory lane, another current news story which has links to the past.

The Rev. Alexander Sherlock, the Catholic priest who resigned recently after allegations surfaced that he had sexually abused minors, is the son of the late Chris Sherlock, a major figure in state government and state politics decades ago.

Chris Sherlock was State Highway Director during the Dixon administration (1939-42) and waged a strong but unsuccessful campaign for governor in 1942, running third behind eventual winner Chauncey Sparks and runner-up James E. (Big Jim) Folsom.

The elder Sherlock later founded a successful engineering and architectural firm in Montgomery