By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—The Governor’s preliminary report on Alabama State University suggests that renowned sport’s physician and former university trustee Dr. Lawrence Lemak “was involved in several entities that violate conflict of interest policy (among other things) for ASU.”
This is not the first time Lemak’s National Center for Sports Safety in Birmingham has come under scrutiny for alleged improprieties.
In 2012, the center came under fire for hosting a fundraiser for Rep. Jay Love (R-Montgomery) the night before the final vote on the Education Trust Fund budget.
Love, then the chairman of the House Education Trust Fund, oversaw the placing of a $588,000 line item in the budget that went directly to the Lemak Center. The budget had originally called for $300,000 less to go to Lemak but the final budget saw the center provided with over half and million in taxpayer dollars. According to its website, “The National Center for Sports Safety (NCSS) was founded to promote the importance of injury prevention and safety on all levels of youth sports through education and research.”
Funding, however, was not a part of Governor Bentley’s recommended budget for 2013, but again received another $588,000 in the 2014 budget.
According to the ASU report prepared by the auditing firm FSS, Dr. Lemak served as the ASU team physician. However, the auditors “found no payments from ASU directly to Lemak for his services.” The report does show a cooperation agreement did exist between the National Center for Sports Safety and ASU for the period October 2007 through September 2012.
The auditors found that ASU provided funding to NCSS through appropriations from the State of Alabama for the PREPARE program. PREPARE, according to NCSS, is to “educate recreational coaches on the importance of injury prevention and safety on all levels of youth sports.”
But, what the auditors found was that “ASU actually received twenty percent (20%) of the allocation to NCSS as an “administrative cost.” Lemak said, through his attorney, that “ASU serves only as a ‘pass through’ for the money appropriated.
Yet, the FSS auditors discovered that ASU had “no documents or information demonstrating that ASU performed any administrative functions for NCSS.” The report shows that between 2007 and 2012, ASU passed a total of $2,721,680 through the university taking a $434,336 cut of all proceeds.
The FSS review shows that ASU charged certain expenses against the NCSS project that were not for the benefit of NCSS.
According to statements by Dr. Bernadette Chapple, Associate Executive Vice President of the University, the twenty percent administrative fees were placed into the ASU Center for Leadership and Public Policy (CLPP) reserve account “for use on anything that ASU needed.”
The report from FSS concludes that “Trustee Lemak’s companies and relatives received a direct financial benefit from the ASU appropriations to NCSS.” This includes Lemak’s son, Matthew Lemak, and Lemak’s daughter-in-law, Kathryn Gwaltney, as well as companies owned by the Trustee. In total, $739,553 was paid to Lemak relatives and companies.
Lemak resigned from the board ASU in April.