MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - EDITOR'S NOTE: California court dismisses case
Alabama State University is filing a civil lawsuit against the firm that conducted a preliminary audit of the university. The case is filed with the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles County.
The lawsuit is against FSS, or Forensic Strategic Solutions, for Negligent Interference with Actual and Prospective Economic Relations and Intentional Interference with Actual and Prospective Economic Relations.
ASU brought the suit to court in California because FSS has a substantial presence in California and because California is important to ASU due to financial contributions it receives from individuals in that state. The university is asking for a jury trial.
ASU is claiming that FSS issued a false and misleading report, "that was intended to interfere with the economic relationships between ASU and others..." ASU says the actions, "have had the effect of interfering with prospective and actual economic relations between ASU, and their alumni and supporters in LA County, CA and elsewhere."
The preliminary forensic audit alleges waste and wrongdoing against multiple ASU board member.
ASU says because of the audit, which is believes to be deeply flawed, its relationship with two major Wall Street credit agencies was damaged, as was its credit rating, following a downgrade by Moody's.
[DOCUMENT: ASU lawsuit vs. FSS (.pdf)]
In the filing, ASU says the state of Alabama has a, "long and ugly history of discrimination against its African American citizens and their institutions..." and that the state "has had a long history of allowing its historically white universities to be governed by independent boards of trustees."
ASU says because it has been a victim of, "engrained and widespread racial discrimination by the state of Alabama and its governors," and that, "in part because of this ugly history, many alumni of ASU have moved to and reside in California."
ASU further says in its filing that, "Over time, white Republicans have become the dominant party in Alabama..." and that, "ASU recognized its need to be involved with the white Republican establishment..." by retaining Republican lobbyist Luther Strange as a consultant.
Strange is now the state's Attorney General but ASU questions why his relationship is not mentioned in FSS's audit. Governor Bentley has called on the AG's office to open an investigation into ASU, but Strange has recused himself.
Following the departure of ASU's newly-seated president in early 2012 after he made allegations of financial wrongdoing, ASU says Governor Robert Bentley and "other white Republicans decided to use this event to take control of ASU and to prevent the Trustees from exercising their lawful responsibilities."
ASU has accused Governor Bentley, who is by power of the governorship head of all the state's university boards, of trying to take over the university. It's a claim Gov. Bentley strongly denies. ASU also takes issue with the public release of the preliminary audit on September 20, 2013 saying it was labeled "confidential".
ASU is seeking "actual and compensatory damages and exemplary damages to the extent defendant is shown and convincing evidence to be guilty of oppression, fraud or malice, and pre-judgement and post judgement interest on all such sums."
"At this time the University feels it prudent not to have any comment on this litigation because the matter is now pending in court," ASU spokesman Ken Mullinax said.
Governor Bentley's office said he was not named in the lawsuit and would not comment on it at this point.