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Riley guest at Rotary, Chamber luncheon

Gov. Bob Riley talked ethics, education, and even a little turkey, during Thursday’s luncheon at the Wendell Mitchell Conference Center. The Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Greenville were joint sponsors of the event.

Riley was a guest of Rotarian and Bates House of Turkey founder Bill Bates.

“After John Wayne died I started looking up to Bill Bates,” quipped Riley. “Because I know if you can raise turkeys for a living you can do anything you want to do for the rest of your life.”

Bates said he’d promised the Governor “a couple of more turkeys” for his appearance on Thursday.

Prior to the meal, Riley talked for a few minutes with Greenville businessman Tim James, a Republican candidate for Governor in 2010, then recognized James during his speech, telling attendees that anyone who chooses to run for Governor should be respected for their decision to serve. He also praised Mayor Dexter McLendon for his commitment to a “team effort” in Greenville, and spoke highly of both Sen. Wendell Mitchell and Rep. Charles Newton, who both attended.

Riley said the state’s commitment to education has paid dividends and said the Alabama Reading Initiative is a model that other states have started to follow.

“We will compete in education,” he said. “We have come a long way from the bottom to the Top 10 and we’re going to stay in the Top 10.”

Riley saved his criticism, though, for the state’s ethics code. Riley said the ethics code was last rewritten in the late 70s, but state legislators need to “rewrite the code one more time.”

The problem, he said, is that lawmakers and government officials face very little scrutiny when it comes to disclosing funds. Riley said he is convinced that ethics violations that have kept elected officials and state employees in the news these past few years would not have happened had there been more transparency in government. Additionally, lobbyists can spend upwards of $250 per day on lawmakers without disclosing it under current state law.

“Do not believe any candidate that says it is a complicated matter,” he said. “Find yourself a new candidate…I’ve heard it say you can’t legislate ethics and that may be right, but you can legislate accountability.”