The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Opinion

October 27, 2013

Better cooperation needed from Alabama State

Montgomery Advertiser on cooperation would be better:

Alabama State University is not “under attack.” It is under scrutiny, and well it should be in light of the deeply disturbing issues raised last week in an update report by the firm seeking to examine its finances.

Unwisely, the university has chosen to employ suspiciously defensive tactics in its non-response response to the report made public by Gov. Robert Bentley. ASU has offered nothing to disprove the observations in the report, but instead has tried the tired old ploy of blaming the messenger for the bad news.

The university has tried to discredit Forensic Strategic Solutions, the firm engaged by Bentley for a forensic audit of the institution. It raised no objections to the firm when the inquiry began, but now stretches the university's already weak credibility by stating FSS is not ranked among the nation's top 100 accounting firms.

That might be because it is not an accounting firm. As FSS president Ralph Summerford noted, “We aren't accountants. We are trained fraud investigators. Our job is to look at and analyze the relationships between the data, the people and the events to determine if fraud has occurred.”

Although ASU seems determined to blur the hugely important distinction, what is underway is a forensic audit, not a standard audit, which essentially matches numbers without taking a deeper look behind them. ASU cites previous “clean” audits as if the two were the same. They decidedly are not.

The university notes the $2.5 million in contracts and payments questioned in the update report and declares, "FSS is incorrect in its conclusion" ...

A daughter and son-in-law of board chairman Elton Dean received multiple payments from ASU that Dean did not list on his state ethics forms. That's not optional; it's the law.

FSS also cites as "warranting further investigation" Dean's relationship to Falicia Rhodes, who received payments totaling $78,000 from ASU. Dean said he had nothing to do with that. ...

The board and administration should immediately reverse their obstructionist course and cooperate fully with this and any further inquiries. Failing to do so can only increase the damage to ASU's tarnished reputation and to its students.

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