Riley Alabama Figure Head for Florida-Owned SGO

March 31, 2015

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Federal filings show that an Alabama scholarship granting organization (SGO) is actually a wholly owned subsidiary of Florida nonprofit.

Former Gov. Bob Riley has promoted his Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund (AOSF) as if it were the soul of the State’s Accountability Act. Yet, it is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Florida-based Step Up For Students, Inc. (SUFS) headed by John T. Kirtley, the godfather of the Sunshine State’s massive and only SGO.

In April 2014, Lesley Searcy, Executive Director of AOSF, told al.com that the organization’s Federal tax filings, referred to as 990s, would show that no board members received salaries.

A search for AOSF doesn’t return a 990 filing, however, Guidestar lists AOSF under the filings by Kirtley’s Step Up For Students, Inc. In the 2013 filings, Riley is listed as Chairman of AOSF, while Marquita Davis, John H. Cooper and Ann Mackey are named as directors.

In his welcoming letter on AOSF’s website, Riley’s says, “When I was in office I woke up every day thinking about how to make Alabama the best state in the country to do business.”

And here, Riley has joined forces with a Florida company which allocates Alabama tax dollars to our State’s children.

The 2013 filings show that SUFS, which includes AOSF took in over $330 million. After total expenses the SGO netted almost $48 million, combined with the prior years revenue less expenses the group netted almost $146 million.

Almost $500,000 was paid in compensation for current officers, directors, trustees, and key employees.

Searcy had promised that AOSF’s 990 would reveal salaries of the companies principles however, there is no mention of compensation for Searcy, Riley, Davis or Cooper,

However, the filings do show over $3.7 million in “other” salaries and wages was paid.

The fund also list over $350,000 in travel expenses.

The group spent $600,000 for advertising, $200,000 for lobbying and $200,000 for printing.

For years, SUFS operated a for-profit LC3, The Scholarship Organization Network which processed K-12 scholarship applications, this for-profit company within the non-profit was shuttered in June 2014.

Sercy, writing on AOSF website, states, “Alabama has thousands of bright, curious children from Florence to Fairhope, from urban centers to family farms. These children possess so much ability and promise but desperately need the opportunity to reach their full potential. Today, through the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund, we are able to provide that hope for qualifying children throughout our state.”

She fails to mention that the scholarship operation just so happens to be in Florida, not our State.

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