Rep. Jo Bonner to make more money than you

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt June 13, 2013

Editor’s note: I am from Mobile, Ala. I graduated from the University of Alabama in 2005 and married a beautiful Alabama gal. I have roots there and care about its future.

At last the University of Alabama System tells us what it will be paying its new lobbyist, Rep. Jo Bonner, who is the brother of University of Alabama President Judy Bonner.

Do I need a drum roll?

… Eh, the hell with it. He’s definitely making more money than you.

Wow, $350,000. And do you want to know a fun fact? The starting salary of the average University of Alabama grad is $40,800. Since Jo Bonner graduated from UA, with a degree in journalism no less, I guess this whole thing is really more of a rags-to-riches story than an indictment of good ole boy politics.

I can’t wait for the TV movie.

The average vice chancellor’s salary is $287,375, according to the Crimson White’s tepid endorsement of hiring Bonner.

The press, to its credit, is doing the best it can without outright stating the truth that’s so obvious you could see it from outer space. This story goes right up to the line, noting that the Board of Trustees will soon consider raising tuition rates yet again.

You know, when you start your first job out of college making an amazing $40,800 salary, you can afford to tack on a little extra student loan debt.

I see UAS system spokeswoman Kellee Reinhart is emphasizing that the job was not “made up” for Rep. Jo Bonner. The way this talking point goes,  the retirement of Vice Chancellor of Government Relations Bill Jones freed up the spot for Jo Bonner.

And what did Bill Jones make? Well you won’t find it stated in the latest articles, but a 2011 Tuscaloosa News article said Jones made an annual salary of $217,000.

If Jones’ salary between 2011 and 2013 jumped from $217,000 to anywhere close to the $350,000 Jo Bonner will be making, that’s its own story.

Kellee Reinhart said Jones’ retirement caused the University of Alabama System to reconsider the “scope” of the job, and I guess she means the added duties necessitated this salary increase.

So in technical sense, she’s right. The job isn’t new in the sense that UAS didn’t continue paying Jones while paying Rep. Bonner, unlike the sweet severance agreement UAS gave UA President Judy Bonner’s predecessor, Guy Bailey. But I think it’s accurate and fair to say the position did not exist in its current form until after Jones retired this year.

And when Jones retired, his job was competitively advertised, right? Here’s another interesting tidbit. Today, Reinhart told the CW that there was an interview process but a “list of considered candidates is not available.”

Give me a break, people.

We can play the semantics game if you want, but look at the numbers. When Rep. Bonner takes over Jones’ “old” job, he’ll be making 62 percent more than Jones. Will he really be doing that much more than Jones did? If Rep. Bonner cares about the university so much, can’t he accept a salary closer the $174,000 he makes each year as a congressman?

I have nothing but sympathy for Kellee. She and I spoke briefly on the phone, and she’s nice as she can be and does a good job for UAS. Unfortunately, it’s her job to put the best spin on something that looks like another day in the crony kingdom to us serfs.

Jo Bonner was reelected to Congress in 2012 and he wants to leave before his term is through. The special election to fill his seat will cost millions of dollars.

Don’t you think taxpayers deserve more transparency than this?

There are entirely too many blanks that haven’t been filled in. There are too many questions unanswered and too few details provided.

At the end of the day, will we find that some lawyer – perhaps the state Attorney General – has researched the matter and determined all of this is entirely legal? I bet you Jo Bonner’s new salary we will.  As I’ve noted, the polices in question are easily bypassed by anyone interested in doing so.

It may be legal, but that doesn’t make it right. Until Alabama’s media, particularly the editorial boards, start promoting this concept, this sort of thing will just keep happening.

Never underestimate the power of shame. UAS needs Alabama’s media more than Alabama’s media needs UAS.

To Alabama journalists, editorial board members and newspaper publishers: I know it’s hard, but please stop enabling these people. People in Alabama need you. Don’t put the interests of the crony kingdom above the interests of your viewers and readers.

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

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