Saturday, April 27, 2002

University says legislator meddling with its budget

Stacy claims he's trying to help

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Officials of Morehead State University say a legislator who once worked at the university has used his position to meddle in its budget.

        They told Gov. Paul Patton and General Assembly leaders they “objected strenuously” to “a blatant attempt by a single legislator to disrupt the internal affairs and budget of the university for what appear to be personal reasons.”

        The legislator, Rep. John Will Stacy of West Liberty, spent three years on the university's staff, two as an assistant dean and one as a development officer. He left last summer when his contract was not renewed, according to the university.

        Mr. Stacy also is chairman of the House's budget subcommittee for education. At a hearing by the full Appropriations and Revenue Committee on Tuesday, Mr. Stacy got Mr. Patton's proposed budget bill amended to include a mandate that Morehead State spend $407,000 for radio station equipment and two telecommunications projects. The money would come from the university's state appropriation.

        Mr. Stacy told the Appropriations and Revenue Committee the money was not obligated, and he implied that the university was agreeable. The committee did question him.

        Mr. Stacy did much the same thing last month, when the House first took up budget legislation. He inserted specific directions into Morehead State's budget, including amounts of pay raises for university employees.

        In a letter Thursday, university President Ron Eaglin and Board of Regents Chairman Buckner Hinkle Jr. said Mr. Stacy misled the appropriations committee.

        “We believe he was fully aware that the university had objected strenuously to all of the budget language in his earlier effort to usurp the statutory authority of the Board of Regents and that the board's position on that issue had not changed,” the letter said.

        In a telephone interview Friday, Mr. Stacy said he “was aware that they weren't agreeable to that language. But to be honest with you, I hoped they'd overlook those things and see that (the expenditures) had some merit.”

        In fact, Mr. Eaglin and Mr. Hinkle wrote that the expenditures proposed by Mr. Stacy “could have merit.” But “not one of them came forward through the university's internal planning and budgeting processes,” their letter said.

        Asked if he acted for “personal reasons,” Mr. Stacy said: “If asking them to serve a region that needs education is a personal reason, I guess that is a personal reason. I guarantee you that's all there is to it.”

        All other universities were given lump sums to be spent on budgets drafted by their own governing boards.

        Mr. Eaglin and Mr. Hinkle addressed their letter to Mr. Patton, Senate President David Williams and House Speaker Jody Richards. Copies were sent to reporters at the Capitol.

        The letter said members of the Board of Regents still had not seen details of the expenditures Mr. Stacy proposed. Mr. Stacy said that was an exaggeration and that some university officials were given a detailed summary of all but one project.

        The dispute was rendered moot, at least for the moment, when the House passed the budget without amendments — neither Mr. Stacy's nor anyone else's — late Thursday.

        But the Council on Postsecondary Education, which oversees the universities' overall budgets, was watching for further amendment attempts.


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- University says legislator meddling with its budget