ASU hires former federal judge to provide legal advice - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

ASU hires former federal judge to provide legal advice

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Alabama State University has retained the law firm of White, Arnold & Dowd in Birmingham to assist the institution as forensic auditors comb through the university's finances.

In an email to WSFA 12 News, former Federal Judge U.W. Clemon wrote that he and the firm will "provide advice and counsel in connection with the forensic audit and related matters."

The forensic audit, an investigation into all of the university's financial affairs, began last December at the request of Gov. Robert Bentley. The Alabama State Board of Trustees approved the audit.

Former ASU President Dr. Joseph Silver raised questions and concerns about some contracts the university held with some vendors and described them as "troubling." Silver struck a deal with the university end their relationship at the end of December 2012.

Judge Clemon was the first black judge to serve on the federal bench in Alabama. President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the Northern District of Alabama in 1980.

Last Friday, ASU's Board of Trustees gave the university's interim president, Dr. William Harris, the authority to provide legal counsel to any members of the university's administration who have been questioned during the auditing process. The decision was made during a 15 minute executive session.

At the time, President Harris said, ""I recommend that the board grant authorities and responsibilities to the president to appoint counsel for university officials in their personal and official positions regarding the agreed upon procedures of the forensic audit and certain other investigations."

At the conclusion of the meeting, Harris was asked about the "other investigations" that he referred to during his statement. Harris said, "The main things are those two operations out there. Nothing else. Nobody else, nobody has been indicted, no. That's not what we're talking about."

Judge Clemon was asked about the "two operations" and other investigations as well. Judge Clemon wrote that the "two operations are the forensic audit and any ancillary legal matters arising from the audit which may adversely impact the mission and corporate interests of ASU."

Clemon also wrote that Donald Watkins, whose father served as president of Alabama State University for nearly 20 years, is also providing legal services to the university free of charge.

When asked specifically whether there were ongoing federal or state investigations into ASU beyond the forensic audit, Judge Clemon pointed WSFA 12 News in the directions of the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, Alabama's Attorney General, and the Montgomery District Attorney.

A spokeswoman for the Middle District of Alabama wouldn't confirm or deny the existence of an investigation into Alabama State University. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Luther Strange refused to comment on ASU.

WSFA 12 News sent Judge Clemon an additional email asking for the terms of his retainer with Alabama State but he has not yet responded.

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