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State Rep Refused to Make ASU Fight Racial

MONTGOMERY Ala.—State Rep. Alvin Holmes of Montgomery said he’s been criticized by a former Alabama State University trustee and others because he refused a request to help turn an investigation of the university into a racial fight.

The Montgomery Democrat, who taught history at ASU for many years, said former trustee Donald Watkins and ASU’s executive vice president, state Rep. John Knight of Montgomery, asked him to question the motives of former university President Joseph Silver and to go after Gov. Robert Bentley on racial grounds. Holmes said he refused because he doesn’t believe race played a role in Silver’s questions about university contracts or Bentley’s pursuit of a forensic audit.

Watkins and Knight told the Montgomery Advertiser they never asked Holmes to get involved.

In a recent opinion article for Alabama newspapers, Watkins questioned Holmes’ past work for the university and asked why the veteran legislator has been “missing in action” during “attacks” on the Montgomery university.

Knight said he hasn’t criticized Holmes. “If he has a problem with something Donald Watkins wrote, he should take it up with him. I’ve not said anything to or about Alvin Holmes,” Knight said.

Silver served three months as president of ASU and upset some trustees by questioning several university contracts. He stepped down in December 2012 with a mutual separation agreement from the trustees that paid him $685,000.

Based on questions raised by Silver, the governor, who serves as an ASU trustee by virtue of his office, hired a Birmingham firm to conduct a forensic audit that is ongoing.

Holmes, the longest serving black member of the Legislature, said he had no problem with the governor’s decision.

“I am probably the most outspoken person in this state when it comes to racial issues. Everyone knows it. But I don’t see race playing a role in this investigation at ASU. I know Governor Bentley well, and I don’t believe him to be a racist,” Holmes told the newspaper.

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