Governor, ASU Board hold contentious special meeting - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Governor, ASU Board hold contentious special meeting

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and members of the Alabama State University Board of Trustees held an often-times contentious meeting at the Dunn-Oliver Acadome on the ASU campus Monday afternoon.

The meeting started promptly at 3:30 p.m. but quickly became mired in procedural issues as both sides offered dueling agendas. Governor Bentley's agenda was ultimately voted down in favor of Trustee Elton Dean's which did not include talk of the forensic audit by Forensic Strategic Solutions or the ongoing presidential search.

Instead, with the adoption of the new agenda, ASU interim president Dr. William Harris issued a presidential report. "There is nothing in the report that suggests a misuse of funds," Dr. Harris said. President Harris reiterated his frustration that ASU was not given time to respond to the preliminary audit from FSS.

"The FSS report is a serious report. It makes serious allegations about the governance of this university," Governor Bentley said. The governor said several times that he was at the meeting to listen to trustees, not attorneys, but Judge U.W. Clemon, who is ASU's attorney, issued his own report. Governor Bentley then brought in his own legal advisor to counter.

Clemon said he was retained by ASU when the university realized it was being investigated. He said he sent a memorandum of understanding to the governor's office and said it was untrue that ASU has not cooperated with the investigation.

During his report, Clemon said the FSS report included lies and said the firm never even picked up some of the documents that ASU furnished.

Clemon, discussing Medicaid, said ASU knows Phases 1 and 2 were completed and the person over it was qualified, but she quit because she had too many obligations. He said FSS distorted the facts.

Clemon then took aim at FSS's claim that there were conflicts of interest on the ASU board and cited the statute regarding conflicts. He said nowhere in the statute does it say Board members' family members can't be employed by the university. Clemon said "Chairman Dean had absolutely nothing to do with those contracts," in response to contracts awarded to Dean's daughter.

Following the report issued by Mr. Clemon, Governor Bentley's legal advisor, David Byrne, countered many of the points of his report saying "Judge Clemon handled this as a criminal defense attorney. That's his right, but ASU is a public university." Byrne said all the documents requested by FSS, "are business records, the people have a right to them."

[FULL COVERAGE - WSFA 12 News was the only TV station that carried the special meeting live and we'll have the most complete Team 12 coverage in all our evening newscasts.]

Byrne said the process of getting documents was going to Judge Clemon's way or no way and that the state never agreed to terms of Clemon's memorandum of understanding.

Discussing the Medicaid contract, Bryne said it went to a woman who formed a limited liability company, or LLC, just 8 days before and that checks were sent to a dropbox at a convenience store.

"We've got over a million dollars paid out to some individuals and we don't know what they actually did. These are taxpayer dollars," said Governor Bentley.

The governor suggested more transparency but warned, "You don't want to micro manage and get in trouble like Auburn [University] did 10 years ago."

The governor said his office had done just about as much as it could do and said that the audit report has been turned over to the proper authorities. He said he would not take a motion to make an ASU board member privileged to all audit activities saying the governor's office was not required to do so because it paid for audit.

Another point of contention in the nearly 3-hour meeting came as the board discussed the presidential search. Trustee Marvin Wiggins said 71 applications have been reviewed and the list has been narrowed to 11 candidates. He said he hopes to have a candidate before the board to vote on before January.

Governor Bentley said he has concerns about the search process and believes the candidates' information should be public. Wiggins was outraged at such a thought and said he would fight the release of such documents, which were given to the governor's office by lawyers running the search.

Governor Bentley's legal advisors cited an AG opinion that job applications are public record but Wiggins said the information on the candidates went to a private firm and should have never been made public.

The board of trustees did agree on one thing, unanimously. Another ASU student will to be added to the presidential search committee.

Copyright 2013 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

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