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Samford's death changes landscape of AU trustees

By Staff
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY–The untimely death of Jimmy Samford…he was only 53…might have signalled the end of what some have called the "Lowder Power Era" on the Auburn University Board of Trustees.
Rightly or wrong, Montgomery banker Bobby Lowder has been the target of many Auburn faithful for years for what they feel has been his enormous clout on the AU Board.
Fuel was added to this fire not long ago when it was revealed that it had been Lowder's jet which was used to fly seveal Auburn bigwigs to Louisville to interview a possible replacement for Coach Tommy Tuberville.
More often than not, Samford was an ally on the AU Board. With his seat suddenly and tragically becoming vacant, and three new members to come aboard in the next couple of months, it could well be that Lowder's clout will be enormously diminished.
Say what you may about Samford's role on the board, few trustees ever had stronger ties to the university. He descended from Gov. William Samford, for whom the landmark Samford Hall on the AU campus is named; many of his family members were associated with the university, and last year the baseball stadium at Auburn was named for him.
It works this way: An employee or teacher will retire, begin drawing benefits, then be hired as a "consultant" and return to their same job.
They make no contributions to the RSA for the income they earn as consultants.
The letter sent out by RSA said the number of retirees now double-dipping ha "increased dramatically."
"This abuse of the retirement laws must be stopped immediately," the letter said.
It was noted that the practice was most prevalent in the Birmingham City School System where a number of teachers have retired and then re-hired as "consultants."
Gov. Bob Riley's failed Amendment No. 1 (the tax-accountability package) was at or near the top of most lists; also dis-robed Roy Moore and the Ten Commandment monument controversy…and of course the coaching controversies at Alabama and Auburn.
Certainly those stories resulted in more ink in the printed press and air time on TV than any other.
As to which of the coaching stories got top billing, most agreed the firing of Mike Price at Alabama after his celebrated trip to Florida was more spicy than what has been called the back-stabbing of Tommy Tuberville by the Auburn University administration.
While the cutbacks have been painful for those affected it has not been as severe as originally predicted.
Mac McArthur, head of the Alabama State Employees Association, conceded the layoffs had not been as bad as expected.
"It's not as bad as we feared but I don't think it is all done," he said. State employment had dropped to 34,096 on Nov. 30, which is about 1,100 less than two years ago.
"Unlikely"? How could anyone with walking around sense think otherwise?
The fact is that one of the chief causes of the state fiscal crisis in both the education and General Funds has been pay raises given teachers and state employees in recent years….raises which were granted even though the legislature knew the money wasn't there.
Even Dr. Paul Hubbert, the all-powerful head of the Alabama Education Association, said a pay raise for teachers was not on his agenda this year.