Financial, Academic Woes Mount for Alabama Black College

MOBILE Ala.

A report by the state two-year college system finds that Bishop State Community College is in “serious trouble” with financial and academic woes and a criminal probe of some former students and employees, Chancellor Bradley Byrne said.

The state school board Thursday accepted the retirement of Bishop State President Yvonne Kennedy, a Democratic state representative in Mobile. She had been president of her alma mater for 25 years and will retire July 31.

A “special team report” by the two-year college system on Bishop State was released on the eve of the school board meeting in Montgomery.

Besides criminal charges related to its student loans, the report found overpayment of certain administrators, lack of financial controls, student complaints about the nursing program, and questionable expenses associated with the school’s culinary laboratory, the Press-Register reported in a story Thursday.

Byrne said Wednesday the report draws the “picture of an institution that’s in serious trouble.”

The latest report found that Kennedy paid college administrators David Thomas and Charles Holloway more than the state’s salary schedule allows.

Holloway, former head of the college’s financial aid department, has been charged with financial aid theft.

In another department, the college’s foundation operated “almost entirely without appropriate corporate governance, under the personal direction of the president,” the report says.

It also says the business office at the college is poorly managed and that the college overpaid Tuscaloosa-based Hall-Taylor Construction, a firm recommended by ousted two-year system Chancellor Roy Johnson.

Architectural and construction management fees normally range between 8 and 9 percent of a total construction contract, the report said.

But $409,000 paid to Hall-Taylor for management services, when coupled with architect fees on an unidentified college construction project, represented 12.85 percent of the total, an “apparently excessive” amount, the report says.

Hall-Taylor’s attorney, J. Mark White of Birmingham, said in a statement Thursday to The Associated Press that the contract between Hall-Taylor and Bishop State was “entirely appropriate and legal.” He said Hall-Taylor delivered services required under the contract.

He said there is no finding in the system’s report of an “overpayment,” but rather a question raised regarding total fees paid for architectural and construction management services.

He said the firm wasn’t contacted by those who prepared the report. He said the firm has cooperated with authorities “in every investigation” and regrets it wasn’t contacted for the Bishop State report.

In the criminal probe, prosecutors have charged 27 people, including Holloway, with stealing more than $200,000 in financial aid and sports program money.

Holloway remains director of the college’s Carver Campus.

Information from: Press-Register, http://www.al.com/mobileregister

–Associated Press



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