MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Gov. Robert Bentley put his stamp on the Alabama State University board of trustees on Friday as his new appointees were sworn in, replacing members he asked to resign or be removed.
However, ousted trustee Marvin Wiggins said he will fight his removal.
Bentley last month asked board chairman Elton Dean and vice chairman Wiggins to resign over conflicts of interests. Dean resigned voluntarily. Wiggins refused. Bentley then wrote to Wiggins, saying he was using his power as governor to remove him from the board. Bentley accused Wiggins of benefiting from $30,000 paid to his wife as director of Camp Eagle, a two-week summer program. He also accused Wiggins of violating his duty as trustee by not informing the board that his sister-in-law, who was hired by the university as a faculty member, had been disbarred in North Carolina.
Bentley said after Friday’s meeting that “time will tell,” but he hopes this would be a turning point for the university.
“I am very excited about this new board that we have in place. I’m very excited about our new president. I am relieved to see where we are,” Bentley said.
Bentley’s new appointees, Pam Ware and Ralph Ruggs, were sworn in as trustees Friday. Their appointments still must be confirmed by the Alabama Senate.
The revamped board elected trustee Larry Thornton as the new chairman.
Wiggins did not attempt to take his seat at Friday’s board meeting but he told the Montgomery Advertiser that he plans to fight his ouster, possibly through the courts or by complaints to the university’s accrediting agency.
Wiggins contends Bentley removed him from the board improperly.
“I have no plans to do anything other than continue my challenge to the actions of Gov. Bentley,” Wiggins said.
Tension between Bentley and some remaining board members was on display Friday as two members questioned Bentley’s decisions as he presided over the meeting. Bentley is president of the university board of trustees by virtue of his office.
Alabama State University, founded in 1867 and now located near downtown Montgomery, is one of the nation’s oldest historically Black universities. The university has recently been in the limelight for other reasons.
A forensic audit commissioned by Bentley’s office questioned $2.5 million in spending and accused the university of hindering the audit.
The Southern Association of Schools and Colleges in July issued a warning to ASU citing issues with financial stability, control of funds and conflicts of interest by trustees.
ASU President Gwendolyn Boyd, who was named to the job last December, said the university was taking steps to address the concerns raised by SACS, such as putting a central contact person to monitor contracts.
The warning will last for at least six months.
“We have not lost our accreditation and we are not going to lose our accreditation,” Boyd said.