Former lobbyist back on Auburn payroll after controversy

MONTGOMERY Ala.

The new president of Auburn University has hired a retired lobbyist whose contract with the Alabama Medicaid agency drew fire for avoiding legislative review and allowing her to collect a state pension while drawing state pay.

Sherri Fulford of Montgomery, who resigned the part-time Medicaid job after the complex contractual arrangement was disclosed by The Huntsville Times, has received a one-year, $120,000 appointment from Auburn President Jay Gogue to work as director of state government affairs.

Auburn spokesman Brian Keeter told the Huntsville paper Monday that Fulford will report to Gogue and that she will suspend collecting her $59,000 state pension.

“She will work closely with members of the state Legislature and other state elected officials,” said Keeter. “She’ll be leading Auburn’s initiative in Montgomery with state leaders.”

Fulford did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

Auburn already pays a well-known Montgomery lobbying firm, Fine Geddie & Associates, well over $120,000 a year to lobby the Legislature on its behalf.

Earlier this year the Medicaid Agency hired Fulford under a contract totaling $57,720 a year for the equivalent of six months’ work while she collected her $59,000 state pension.

The Huntsville Times disclosed that the contract started with the state Finance Department and went through Auburn University Montgomery to a Montgomery company before going back to the state.

It drew criticism for not going before the Legislature’s contract review panel and violating Gov. Bob Riley’s own executive order prohibiting state agencies from hiring lobbyists. Legislators said Riley apologized and promised that similar contracts would be submitted for review.

Medicaid officials said she was not going to be lobbying herself but would train staff members who work with legislators.

The Medicaid contract was arranged after Fulford retired in December 2006 after a 30-year state government career that included lobbying stints for Auburn University Montgomery, the main Auburn campus and Gov. Bob Riley’s office.

Information from: The Huntsville Times, http://www.al.com/hsvtimes/hsv.html

– Associated Press



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