Kenneth Funderburk resigns from Phenix City school board

Kenneth L. Funderburk resigned from the Phenix City School Board last week, determining less than eight months after his controversial appointment that he doesn't have time to serve.

"I've got to practice law and do other things, and it got to the point where it just required too much time," said Funderburk, who is in private practice and also serves as the county attorney for Russell County.

Funderburk's abrupt exit offers the newly-minted council its second opportunity in less than a month to select a school board member, and his successor could be named as early as next week. Earlier this month, Kelvin A. Redd replaced Eddie Lowe on the school board after Lowe was sworn in as Phenix City's new mayor.

Redd, who is director of the Center for Servant Leadership at the Pastoral Institute in Columbus, has since been named the board's vice president.

Most Alabama school boards are elected -- including the boards in Russell and Lee counties -- but the Phenix City Council appoints city school board members to five-year terms. The ousted council, led by former Councilman Jimmy Wetzel, had chosen Funderburk to replace veteran board member Matt Shirley, citing Shirley's absences from meetings. But Funderburk, too, was a frequent no-show during his brief tenure.

"It's a big time-consuming thing, and it's pretty difficult on people that have to work," Funderburk said. "You've got to have more time than I have to commit yourself to it if you're going to fulfill the requirements."

Funderburk's term began on a discordant note. Superintendent Larry E. DiChiara had criticized council's "blatant disregard for ethical behavior" and said at the time that Funderburk's appointment amounted to "payback" over a legal battle the school district fought against the city.

Funderburk, in his letter of resignation, also pointed to the possibility of the school board having to select a new superintendent, a process he said would make the position even more time-consuming.

Funderburk said he made that reference because DiChiara has acknowledged applying for the superintendent opening in Muscogee County.

"I would assume he wouldn't have made the public spectacle of doing that unless he had some kind of inside track," Funderburk said in a telephone interview, alluding to newspaper accounts of DiChiara's application. "I wouldn't think he would be that short-sighted."

DiChiara, however, said Wednesday he has received notice he is not among the semi-finalists for the job in Muscogee County.

"Apparently, his decision to resign from the school board based on his 'assumption' that I might be leaving the school district has proven to be not only incorrect but also very curious," said DiChiara, adding he found it "unfortunate" that Funderburk "would take a parting shot on his way out the door."

DiChiara also denied making a "spectacle" of his application.

"All I have ever done regarding the MCSD superintendent vacancy is answer, in a very open and honest fashion, the questions posed to me by the print media and television media about my interest in applying for the vacant position, as opposed to simply saying, 'No comment' or being dishonest," he said.

"That is not what I call making a public spectacle. It's called being transparent."