By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Montgomery Advertiser reported on Sunday, April 27 that the state Attorney General’s office will take over an investigation into allegations of improper use of state dollars at Alabama State University.
The Montgomery Advertiser reported that Attorney General Luther Strange has recused himself from the investigation and has appointed District Attorney Chris McCool to serve as the acting attorney general. Alabama State University was a client of Strange before he was elected as Alabama Attorney General.
The Associated Press is reporting that a spokeswoman for Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) has said that the Governor won’t be extending a contract for Forensic Strategic Solutions to continue its audit into the University, which has been ongoing for about 16 months.
On Friday, April 25th, the Alabama Political Reporter reported that 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 alumnus 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 will succeed 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.
Boyd announced on Friday that she was reorganizing the leadership team at ASU and was decreasing the number of Vice-Presidents from 9 to just 5, all of whom will answer directly to the President. Knight’s position of Executive Vice President answered directly to the Board of Trustees under the complex leadership structure previously used by Alabama State.
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, Forensic Strategic Solution, 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 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.
Silver would never serve another day as President. Eventually he received $685,000 in a mutual separation agreement with the university.