By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Friday, April 25th, longtime Alabama State University Executive Vice President and State Representative John Knight (D) from Montgomery has retired from the historically Black college in Montgomery.
Representative Knight’s retirement is just four months after the Alabama State University Board of Trustees (BOT) chose ASU alum, Dr. Gwendolyn Boyd to serve as its new president. Boyd is only the 14th President in ASU’s 146 year history and the first woman to serve as President. President Boyd succeeded interim President and President Emeritus, Dr. William H. Harris.
Knight’s retirement comes after a turbulent 20 months in which at one point former ASU President Joseph Silver fired Knight in a BOT meeting in which he himself was minutes later fired. Silver had only been on the job 11 weeks.
The selection of Boyd came after an exhaustive year long search. The previous ASU President, Joseph Silver, was fired after accusing the ASU BOT of acting in an unethical manner. In one angry BOT meeting, President Silver fired state Representative John Knight (D) from Montgomery by text message, before being fired himself by the BOT after less than 90 days on the job. Knight was later reinstated because Silver did not follow proper procedures.
Governor Bentley ordered a forensic audit of ASU’s finances. The auditor uncovered several contracts where it alleged that current and former BOT members’ families may have profited from contracts with ASU. The auditors also charged that ASU officials including the BOT hindered their investigation.
ASU’s own investigation has since uncovered no financial improprieties and ASU has sued the forensic auditor. Gov. Bentley has forwarded the forensic audit to Federal and State authorities for further review. To this point there has been no indictments of anyone at ASU, but speculation and rumors about that possibility have been hanging over the Montgomery University for months.
Since being selected President Boyd has worked to unify the sharply divided factions among ASU’s student body and alumnae and move beyond the events of the last two years.
Dr. Joseph Silver became President of Alabama State University in September 2012. 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 26th.
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.