Reports: No problems with Ala. lawmakers’ spending

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — State examiners have found that two nonprofit organizations that went unaudited for three years after being created by state legislators have not spent most of the $800,000 they have received in Alabama tax revenue.

Auditors said the more than $130,000 that has been spent has gone for schools, volunteer fire departments and economic development.

The examiners’ reports on the Marion County Community Development Association and the West Alabama Development Association of Fayette County did not cite any expenditures as questionable and did not list any costs for management or legal expenses.

A board member for both associations, Democratic state Sen. Roger Bedford of Russellville, said Monday the examiners’ reports showed that “every penny of this money goes directly to the people of my district to meet the needs of the people of my district.”

He said the two associations have been holding on to most of their money to use for schools and other programs affected by recent cutbacks in the state budgets because of the recession.

The Legislature passed a law in 2006 to provide $100,000 in state coal severance tax revenue annually to each of the two associations.

The law required the associations be audited annually by the State Examiners of Public Accounts, but they weren’t until The Birmingham News reported in November that no audits had been conducted. That prompted the examiners to begin immediate reviews covering 2006 to the present.

The examiners issued a report Friday showing that Bedford and Rep. Mike Millican, D-Hamilton, serve as the board for the Marion County association. The association had spent $66,300 as of Nov. 13. Its largest expenditure was $15,000 for the Marion County Public Water Authority to purchase a vehicle.

Bedford, state Rep. William Thigpen Sr., D-Fayette, and Probate Judge William Oswalt serve as the board of the Fayette County association. It had spent $67,549 as of Oct. 31. Its largest expenditure was $8,000 to help the town of Berry with a waterline extension.

Bedford and Thigpen said the boards typically get requests from schools and towns to help with a project where part of the funds have been raised, but there is not enough for completion.

Marion and Fayette counties are coal-producing counties. Other coal-producing counties got state laws passed before 2006 that gave them a portion of the coal severance tax, Thigpen said Monday.