- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Gov. Robert Bentley made a rare visit to the state Senate on Wednesday to urge approval of the four people he’s nominated for trustees of Alabama State University.

Bentley, a trustee by virtue of his office, said the four are already serving with him pending action by the Senate. “We are making a difference at Alabama State,” he said.

Bentley has been pushing for changes at the Montgomery university since President Joseph Silver and the board of trustees parted ways in December 2012 and Silver alleged improper financial activities by some officials. He supported the recent hiring of former Johns Hopkins University administrator Gwendolyn Boyd to replace Silver.

Bentley’s appointments of Montgomery attorney Robert Gilpin, Birmingham businessman Larry Thornton, Tuscaloosa businessman Fitzgerald Washington and Macon County school Superintendent Jacqueline Brooks are pending in the Senate Confirmations Committee. Gilpin, Thornton and Brooks have been trustees and were reappointed. Washington is a new trustee replacing Thomas Figures of Mobile.

The four need approval by the Confirmations Committee and the full Senate to be final.

The Confirmations Committee had a meeting scheduled Wednesday afternoon to consider the four, but no senators showed up because the full Senate was meeting at the same time. Bentley did show up and then went into the Senate chamber to seek votes for his choices.

Alabama governors traditionally invite legislators to meet with them in their office in the Capitol, but Bentley, a former state representative, has made a few trips to the Statehouse to visit legislators in their chambers.

Bentley said he has the support of most of the Confirmations Committee, but state law allows the four to keep serving unless rejected by the Senate.

Committee Chairman Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, said all but Thornton face some opposition in the Senate. He said he has no plans at this time to schedule another meeting of the committee.

The political struggle over trustees is going on while Bentley awaits a final report from an auditing firm he hired to review Alabama State’s finance. Forensic Strategic Solutions released preliminary findings in October that raised concerns about fraud and waste by some university officials. The university disputed the findings and sued the Birmingham-based firm.


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