APR Political Commentator Steve Flowers: "Junior College Scandal"

Aug 19, 2015

APR Political Commentator Steve Flowers

The junior college corruption scandal occurred around 2006. It was one of the worst white collar crimes in Alabama’s history. This highly publicized federal probe of the state’s two-year college system sent a lot of people to jail.

Roy Johnson was director at the time. Prosecutors claim he orchestrated one of the most sensational, brazen, flagrant, and pervasive robberies imaginable. Johnson justly was sentenced to ten years in prison and was court ordered to pay back $1.4 million in restitution to the state.

Johnson and his cronies were guilty of creating bogus jobs, fake scholarships, and conspiracy. There were several institutions within the junior college system that were pilfered and used as fronts for criminal activities. One of Johnson’s conduits was the State Fire College in Tuscaloosa. The facility was raided by the FBI. People were arrested and people went to jail. It was a very corrupt system.

Now, a decade later, nothing could be further from the truth. The Alabama Fire College is a great comeback story, and it is a story worth telling.

Since becoming an independent agency from the two-year college system, the Fire College’s staff has put out lots of financial fires to get to where they are today. They have streamlined their budget, while increasing the number of students served by one hundred and twelve percent.  

There is no arrogance or executive privilege at the college, just hard work and public service. They have overcome a negative reputation and they take very seriously the public trust that has been placed in them.

Every audit conducted since 2007 has not only been good, but flawless. Because of their sordid past, the college undergoes more audits than the average state agency. But, they don’t mind one bit and it shows in every perfect audit they get.

The Fire College trains more than Alabama’s career and volunteer firefighters. It also provides services to private industry and the U.S. Department of Defense firefighting forces located at military installations around the world. The school also operates the most successful paramedic training program in the State of Alabama.

Not only do they conduct training classes in every county in Alabama, they also operate 10 regional offices, 19 regional training centers, and provide educational offerings and training experiences to almost 26,000 students in Alabama, other states and foreign countries. Italy, Angola, Japan, the U.K., Canada and Greece are some of the countries that have been served by the Alabama Fire College last year alone.

The Alabama Fire College is an institution of higher education and of servant leadership it is a phenomenal comeback story and a bright jewel in the crown of Alabama’s educational system. Many other agencies could learn a lesson from the comeback story they have written in Tuscaloosa, where putting out fires is what they do best at the Alabama Fire College.