ASU president distances herself from former board member - Montgomery Alabama news.

ASU president distances herself from former board member

Donald Watkins Donald Watkins

Alabama State University President Gwendolyn Boyd is distancing herself and the university from former ASU Board of Trustees member Donald Watkins following controversy involving the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Boyd released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

"Mr. Watkins does not speak for Alabama State University. Mr. Watkins does not represent any executive officer at ASU. Mr. Watkins' actions and comments do not represent Alabama State University. Mr. Watkins is not employed by ASU. As President of Alabama State University, I do not consult with Mr. Watkins or seek Mr. Watkins' advice on any matter."

Wednesday night, WSFA 12 News obtained emails that contradict Boyd's statement. The emails from Trustee Marvin Wiggins and university lawyer Kenneth Thomas to U.S. Attorney George Beck say Watkins is part of the university's legal team but works on a pro bono basis. They say he was hired in December.

Thomas' email to Beck said:

"This email confirms that Attorney Donald Watkins works as co-counsel with the University Counsel's office from time-to-time and on an "as needed" basis. He has represented the University's interest in various matters dealing with your office, the FBI, the FSS forensic audit and pending ASU-FSS litigation, and other legal matters, as requested by this office and the executive officers of the Board of Trustees. His interaction and communications with your office and the FBI are coordinated with my office and the executive officers of the Board. Mr. Watkins serves the University on a pro bono basis."

Wiggins' email to Beck said:

"I am Vice Chairman of the Alabama State University Board of Trustees. I write you this e-mail to correct the record on representations made by ASU President, Dr. Gwendolyn Boyd that Attorney Donald Watkins does not represent ASU. Attorney Watkins was hired by ASU in December 2013 to represent ASU on a number of legal matters including his interactions with the US Attorney's Office and the FBI. He reports to university counsel and the executive board and his work is coordinated by ASU's general counsel's office. Dr. Boyd did not become president until February 1, 2014. There was no occasion for her to hire him as he was already engaged by the university. To the extent President Boyd claims Attorney Watkins does not represent ASU, she is clearly incorrect and in error. Attorney Thomas' e-mail confirmation of Mr. Watkins' status as an attorney for ASU is entirely accurate. Should you need further information, please contact me."

This controversy started after Watkins made a public statement that the FBI wanted to form a partnership with ASU, and Beck denied the claims in a letter.

Watkins presented what he called a "historic" opportunity to forge a relationship with the FBI at the May 9 Board of Trustees meeting.

Watkins briefed the board at the request of Chairman Elton Dean about a meeting he had with the FBI in which the FBI allegedly offered ASU limitless opportunities as a partner. During the May 9 meeting, Watkins also divulged the university has been working with the FBI on various matters, some of which were self-reported.

Beck weighed in on those comments in a written letter to Watkins, Governor Robert Bentley and ASU President Gwendolyn Boyd. 

Beck's three-page letter addressed two points. First it denied any relationship between Alabama State and FBI. Second it addressed Watkins' assertions that an incomplete forensic report is posing serious issues for the university as it attempts to upgrade its credit worthiness with Moody's.

In the letter, Beck told Watkins that the reason the FSS report was not completed was purely out of lack of cooperation from the university to comply with FSS' records requests.

[DOCUMENT: Letter to Donald Watkins from U.S. Attorney George Beck (.pdf)]

[DOCUMENT: Letter to U.S. Attorney from Donald Watkins (.pdf)]

[DOCUMENT: ASU Board of Trustees resolution to establish partnership with FBI (.pdf)]

First Assistant to the U.S. Attorney Clark Morris described the letter as an outright denial of any partnership between Alabama State University and the FBI. He says Beck wrote the letter to clear up facts that are completely incorrect or misunderstood.

While Morris could not confirm nor deny if ASU was the subject of a federal investigation, she confirmed the time passed since the preliminary FSS Report falls short of the time it takes to traditionally build a criminal case, citing most take years to fully investigate.

WSFA 12 News has reached out to Watkins and Elton Dean to respond to this letter, but no one has agreed to an interview.

Copyright 2014 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

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