By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) announced on Friday that he is ordering a forensic audit of embattled Alabama State University (ASU). The review will be conducted by Forensic Strategic Solutions, Inc., of Birmingham. Gov. Bentley’s statement said that the second audit is supported by the leadership at ASU.
Gov. Bentley said, “Alabama State is a world-class university that makes a positive difference in this community and in the lives of all the students it serves. Recently, many people have expressed concerns about contracts and other matters surrounding the university. The students, faculty, staff and alumni of ASU, and all the people of this state, deserve transparency. I support continuing to use Warren Averett, LLC, to conduct the institution’s financial audit. However, I am engaging Forensic Strategic Solutions to conduct a separate analysis as well.”
On Wednesday Senator Dick Brewbaker (R), Representative Jay Love (R), and Senator Trip Pittman (R) sent the interim President of Alabama State University (ASU), Dr. William Harris, a letter notifying him that the trio of legislators had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for all “contracts, subcontracts, and expenditures” between ASU and public officials and their relatives.
Senator Brewbaker wrote in his letter to Pres. Harris: “As the Chairs of House and Senate Committees responsible for education policy and budgeting, we believe it is our duty to reassure the public of contractual transparency of expenditures at state educational institutions.”
Dr. Joseph Silver became President of Alabama State University in September. After he alleged that ASU had longstanding improper financial arrangements involving certain public officials, the new University President was suspended by the ASU Board of Trustees (BOT) on November 26. Literally minutes before he was suspended, President Silver fired Rep. John Knight (D) from Montgomery as the ASU Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer by email using his i-phone.
President Silver also sent a termination email to Danielle Kennedy, the vice president of university relations. An ASU attorney has since stated that the firings of Kennedy and Knight were a violation of University procedures and ASU has overruled those personnel actions by President Silver.
The BOT appointed Knight as the interim University President. An ASU attorney later announced that the firings of Knight and Kennedy were void because Silver did not follow University procedures.
On November 27th, the Vice President for Business and Finance, Edward Patrick and Joyce Outler, the Senior Assistant to the President, were both suspended. Three days later they were both fired. University Vice President Danielle Kennedy said the two no longer work for Alabama State because the board of trustees did not approve their hiring. Patrick and Outler had previously worked at Clark Atlanta University with President Silver.
On November 30th, the BOT met again this time with Alabama Governor Robert Bentley in attendance. The BOT accepted Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) recommendation that the BOT postpone any decision about embattled University President Joseph Silver’s future for 5 to 10 days and conduct an independent audit of ASU’s finances. Silver meanwhile defends his conduct and says that the reason he has been punished is because he exposed “old bones” by questioning ASU’s contracts.
Gov. Bentley said in a written statement, “The issue before all of us now is to do what is best for Alabama State University. Toward that end, Chairman Dean has agreed with me that an independent and comprehensive financial audit of this university will be conducted immediately. That is a positive step in the right direction.” The audit of all University contracts is being conducted by Warren Averett Wilson & Price in Montgomery.
Some political insiders questioned the independence of Warren Averett Wilson & Price because they have done financial review work for ASU before.
Gov. Bentley said of the second audit, which is a full forensic audit. “This is in the best interest of Alabama State and all of us who love this university. We want to make sure nothing gets in the way of the success of ASU and its students.
The ASU Board and leadership have publicly stated that they support full transparency in this process, and this additional review will help ensure we achieve that.”