LEEBURN REAPPOINTMENT IS A BIG DISAPPOINTMENT
So much for the New
Georgia that Gov. Sonny Perdue promised us. Right now, New Georgia looks a
lot like the old one. The governor has reappointed Don Leeburn, the
controversial Columbus liquor dealer, to another seven-year term on the
Board of Regents, proving that money talks as loudly to Republicans as it
does to Democrats.
Leeburn is an
equal-opportunity fat-cat contributor, as attested by the fact that he has
been extremely generous to sitting governors. Democratic governor Zell
Miller appointed and reappointed him to the powerful board that oversees
Georgia’s 34 universities and colleges. Now Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue
has followed suit. Setting policy for institutions of higher education in
Georgia isn’t about what you know; it is about who you know.
The governor’s PR
flack, Heather Hendrick, defended the indefensible appointment. “Gov.
Perdue makes these decisions based on an individual's job performance, his
qualifications and his educational philosophy. Mr. Leebern has done an
excellent job on the Board of Regents and for the university system, for
the state of Georgia." Horse patoot.
If Don Leeburn is
doing such an excellent job, why, after 14 years on the Board of Regents,
did he not know about the board’s policy against using university
trademarks on alcoholic beverages? If he did know, why then did he openly
violate those rules by distributing a wine with the UGA Alumni Association
logo through his company, Georgia Distributing? And why did it take the
geniuses at the board six months to figure out that Leeburn was violating
As for Mr. Leeburn’s
“educational philosophy,” could that have been honed through an
up-close-and-personal relationship with a member of the University of
Georgia staff? Leeburn lives openly with UGA gymnastics coach Susan
Yoculan, despite the fact that he hasn’t bothered to divorce his wife,
Betsy, who still resides in Columbus. Details. Details. Maybe this doesn’t
bother the governor or the university administration, but it bothers the
hell out of me. Doesn’t anybody else think these two lovebirds aren’t
exactly the kind of people we want to hold up as role models to our young
people? My momma would have called what Leeburn and Yoculan are doing
“tacky.” And my momma would have been correct.
Imagine the furor if a
female member of the Board of Regents set up play-housekeeping with the
UGA football coach or basketball coach while still married. There would be
a roar of righteous indignation from Rabun Gap to Tybee Light. But because
it is deep-pocketed Don Leeburn, you won’t hear a peep out of the Board of
Regents, the UGA administration or, evidently, the governor’s office. See
no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil.
Leeburn had six
members of UGA's women's gymnastics team and Yoculan flown to New York on
his private jet for a weekend of R&R, in clear violation of NCAA rules.
His excuse? “There was a claim that it was a secondary violation of NCAA
Rule 16.02.3. Has anyone ever read that rule?” I would hope a regent with
14 years experience would have, and if he hadn’t, that he would have the
common sense to check it out with the athletics department before firing
up the jet. Even Sheila the Family Wonder Dog knows that athletic matters
must first go through the office of UGA Athletics Director Damon Evans for
approval, and Sheila’s only awake four hours a day.
Leeburn blames the
media for his high and not-so-admirable profile. After the Atlanta
newspapers called on the governor not to reappoint him, Leeburn huffed,
“It is a badge of honor that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution doesn't want
me reappointed. I don't share its warped liberal agenda — and I make no
apology for that.” More horse patoot. This has nothing to do with warped
liberal agendas. It has to do with a regent acting as if he is accountable
to no one and being able to get away with it because he has lots of money.
I don’t share the Atlanta newspapers’ liberal agenda either, but this time
we happen to be on the same page. Don Leeburn should never have been
reappointed to the Board of Regents.
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