AU trustee selections process winds down

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The selection committee for the Auburn University Board of Trustees decided Wednesday that it will interview 35 candidates for nine vacant positions on the powerful board.

The finalists came from a list 170 names long of applicants who filled out a lengthy questionnaire.

Wednesday's meeting was one of the final stages of a long process that began last May with Governor Robert Bentley's initial appointments being challenged by Auburn alumni and lawmakers.

The Auburn Board of Trustees consists of 12 members. Governor Bentley is the President of the Board.

There are several current board members who are up for consideration for another term. One of them Jimmy Raine, who represents the third district and there are no other challengers for that seat. All nominees will have to interview with the board starting January 25.

"We felt that whether you had served on the board of trustees or not, that everyone ought to have an equal shot" Gov. Bentley said. "And everyone ought to be interviewed so that's what we decided to do and I think that's the most open and honest process."

Absent from the list of nominees is longtime board member and former Colonial Bank CEO, Bobby Lowder. He had served on the board since 1983.

Former Auburn Alumni Association Andy Hornsby sued Gov. Bentley in May 2011 alleging that the governor had violated the state's open meetings law by rushing his appointments. He later dropped the suit.

Hornsby said he's pleased not to see Lowder's name come up as a nominee for the next seven-year term.

"It's a new day for Auburn and a refreshing day for Auburn" Hornsby said. "A lot of us have waited a lot of years to see that."

Lowder had been accused for years of having too much financial influence on the operations of Auburn University. He has donated millions for buildings and to the athletic department.

Gov. Bentley didn't comment on Lowder but did say how happy he was with the transparency of the selection process. He agreed with a question that asked whether taxpayers should be happy that the appointments weren't made in a "smoke-filled room."

"I believe that this process we have right now is the best process that any university has because it's the most open."

The selection committee will meet February 6 to decide on a final list of nominees to send to the Alabama Senate for confirmation.

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