A US Attorney from Alabama recently sent a strong rebuke to a former Alabama State University trustee official for comments suggesting a partnership between the school and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its role in the ongoing forensic audit of the institution.
According to the Montgomery Advertiser, former ASU Trustee Donald Watkins publicly referred to a potential ‘partnership’ between the university and the bureau following a meeting with state FBI officials in which he was led to believe that the FBI would offer assistance to Alabama State in helping to rebuild its image following the release of preliminary audit findings in October 2013. Those findings alleged several instances of inappropriate financial dealings among board members and ASU executive team members, all of which the university has denied.
Watkins, who serves as a member of Alabama State’s legal counsel on a pro bono basis, received a letter earlier this month from US Attorney George Beck, who, in no uncertain terms, addressed Watkins’ claims as unfounded and incorrect in a letter made public this week.
“First, the FBI assures me that there is absolutely no basis nor truth to your allegation of any type of ‘intragovernmental relationship’ or ‘partnership’ between FBI and ASU,” Beck wrote, after promising to not mince words. “Second, in the event that you misunderstood some communication with the FBI, or in the event you perceived some type of potential intragovernmental relationship or partnership with the FBI, you have now been corrected: No such relationship offer was extended, and no such relationship exists between the FBI and you or ASU.”
Alabama State President Gwendolyn Boyd distanced the university from Watkins’ comments on Wednesday.
“Mr. Watkins does not speak for Alabama State University. Mr. Watkins does not represent any executive officer at ASU. Mr. Watkins’ actions and comments do not represent Alabama State University. Mr. Watkins is not employed by ASU. As President of Alabama State University, I do not consult with Mr. Watkins or seek Mr. Watkins’ advice on any matter.”
Dr. Boyd’s comments were refuted in another email from Trustee Marvin Wiggins to Beck.
“I am Vice Chairman of the Alabama State University Board of Trustees. I write you this e-mail to correct the record on representations made by ASU President, Dr. Gwendolyn Boyd that Attorney Donald Watkins does not represent ASU. Attorney Watkins was hired by ASU in December 2013 to represent ASU on a number of legal matters including his interactions with the US Attorney’s Office and the FBI. He reports to university counsel and the executive board and his work is coordinated by ASU’s general counsel’s office. Dr. Boyd did not become president until February 1, 2014. There was no occasion for her to hire him as he was already engaged by the university. To the extent President Boyd claims Attorney Watkins does not represent ASU, she is clearly incorrect and in error. Attorney Thomas’ e-mail confirmation of Mr. Watkins’ status as an attorney for ASU is entirely accurate. Should you need further information, please contact me.”
It is the latest instance of conflict between the ASU Board and Dr. Boyd in less than a month. The two sides were recently at odds over Dr. Boyd’s executive reorganization and interaction with board members.