HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The mystery of what happened to more than $1 million at Alabama A&M University hasn’t been solved two years after state examiners reported financial problems at the school.
“The money is gone. You can’t find it, you can’t fix it, you just write it off,” former A&M trustee Tommy Beason told The Huntsville Times.
Beason resigned in frustration in 2008 about the time the Alabama Examiners of Public Accounts reported $1.2 million missing. It was “receipted in the accounting records of the university that were not identified as being properly deposited,” the examiners reported.
The examiners eventually were able to locate $43,000 of the missing money, reducing the amount to $1.44 million, with most of it being money that students had paid.
The examiners reported in 2008 they were turning over the matter to state Attorney General Troy King for collection.
King’s spokeswoman, Joy Patterson, said the attorney general’s “review of the findings contained in this audit is active” and the office does not comment on matters under active review. She pointed out that a review is not necessarily an investigation.
Rod Steakley, attorney for the A&M board of trustees, said he knows of no investigation by the attorney general.
A&M trustee James Montgomery told the newspaper that he’s tried to find out from the university whether any formal action was taken but has never received a response.
“As far as I know it was forgotten and nothing was done about it,” he said.
Former trustee Robert Avery said he’s been told the case was also sent to the local district attorney for investigation.
Mark Sandlin, chief deputy district attorney in Madison County, said he hadn’t seen the examiners’ report from 2008. “We’re not doing anything here,” he said. “Typically these kinds of things go through the attorney general’s office.”
Steakley said the matter could have been handled internally by the administration at the university.
The 2008 audit covered the period of former President John Gibson, spanning 2002 through 2005, according to The Huntsville Times. The university did not follow standard accounting practices, the university didn’t depreciate certain holdings, vendors were not paid on time, and $600,000 discrepancies were wiped out with journal entries, The Huntsville Times has reported
Gibson is long gone, and the board already fired his successor, Robert Jennings.
Montgomery, a trustee, said, “I think it’s pitiful that the public examiners could find that much money missing, and you have a trustee board that is not willing to do anything about it, and when someone raises the issue they are treated like a criminal.”
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