- Associated Press - Friday, May 23, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The new president of Alabama State University is in a public battle with a longtime power broker at the school just weeks after reshuffling its administrative structure amid an investigation of financial questions.

President Gwendolyn Boyd is at odds with Donald Watkins, an attorney and the son of a former Alabama State president, just four months after she took over at the troubled, historically black campus in Montgomery.

Boyd issued a statement this week saying Watkins, who has represented the university in the past, doesn’t speak for the school and isn’t consulted by her on anything. The move came after Watkins filed a complaint over a federal prosecutor’s remarks about a review of Alabama State.

The Montgomery Advertiser (https://on.mgmadv.com/1k170D3) reported Friday that Watkins followed Boyd’s statement with a news release questioning whether she was wasting money with inaugural events planned for the next school year.

Dr. Boyd’s public effort to distance herself from me has raised serious concerns with many of ASU’s constituency groups,” Watkins wrote. “(Boyd) started distancing herself from me after I questioned whether taxpayers’ dollars should be used to pay for her expensive and elaborate week of planned inaugural activities and galas in September.”

Watkins, whose father Levi Watkins was president of Alabama State for about two decades ending in 1981, also questioned Boyd’s “steady stream of out-of-state trips on Thursdays and Fridays of nearly every weekend” and asked whether she is receiving speaking fees while traveling at school expense.

University officials had no immediate comment on Watkins‘ remarks, which were the latest in a tumultuous few weeks for Boyd and the university.

Disputes began in early May when Boyd entered into heated exchanges - both in face-to-face meetings and through written correspondence - with two trustees and university attorneys about her plan to reorganize the administration at Alabama State. Among other things, the job of longtime university executive John Knight, a state representative, was eliminated.

The school’s trustees approved the reorganization plan at its meeting on Friday morning. In a statement released after the meeting, Boyd said she is excited that the changes were accepted.

“It gives us an opportunity now to make the necessary changes, to look at every position and make sure we have the right people not only in the right positions, but even in the right areas,” she said. “We want to make sure that everything we do is appropriate for our students and everything they need is in place and available.”

The school’s finances have been under review for a series of deals and decisions made before Boyd, an alumnus, arrived back on campus as president.

Bentley’s office ordered a forensic review of Alabama State’s finances following allegations of questionable contracts at the school by former President Joseph Silver. The audit, which began in December 2012, continues even though the university filed suit trying to halt the investigation.

Boyd has a two-year contract worth $300,000 annually as president.

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