ASU presidential search committee to keep finalists confidential - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

ASU presidential search committee to keep finalists confidential

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Despite Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley's call that the search for a new president at Alabama State University be halted, the search committee decided to move forward with a search for a new leader.

The committee help a meeting Thursday night and finalized a list of 11 candidates for the vacant position. The committee also decided the names of the candidates will remain confidential.

ASU has been without a president since December 2012, when the university struck a separation agreement with then-president Joseph Silver.

Silver was met with resistance when he raised questions and concerns about financial dealings at the university.

One of the members of the Alabama State University Presidential Search Committee took the opportunity to lash out at the governor and the audit that revealed allegations and findings of financial waste, conflicts of interest and payments that were unaccounted for.

Donald Watkins, a Birmingham attorney and businessman, referred to Forensic Strategic Solutions, the firm that conducted the audit as, "some little accounting firm in Birmingham."

He also said that FSS was "handpicked" by Gov. Bentley, even though Alabama State University agreed that FSS would conduct the audit and none of the members of the Alabama State Board of Trustees raised issue at the time.

The contract was in-fact a no-bid, but state law does not require a bid process for such agreements, and the state legislature's Contract Review Committee approved the deal without issue.

Watkins criticized the findings in the report, saying that there is no allegation that money was stolen, missing, or otherwise unaccounted for.

"Ain't no money stolen. Ain't no money missin," Watkins told the committee.

Auditors said there is evidence to support their conclusions that two current and one former board members' personal business interests and family members benefitted financially from the university.

The current board members are Board Chairman Elton Dean, Vice-Chair and Chair of the Presidential Search Committee Judge Marvin Wiggins. The former trustee in question is Dr. Lawrence Lemak, whose foundations and non-profit groups collected more than $1.6 million from ASU from 2007-2013.

Gov. Bentley's press secretary Jennifer Ardis responded to the criticism of FSS with a statement saying, "FSS is a nationally recognized forensic financial investigation firm. Other firms were considered for the ASU investigation, but the Governor chose FSS based on a process that included recommendations from respected professionals in the fields of law, law enforcement, education, accounting and forensic accounting. The Administration had not worked previously with FSS."

Gov. Bentley did not attend Thursday's meeting. The governor's chief legal adviser and a lawyer for the administration were in attendance.

Copyright 2013 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

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