Bishop State Community College President Yvonne Kennedy said last week she has no plans to resign during a financial aid probe at the two-year school.
Kennedy, a Democrat who serves in the Alabama House of Representatives, marked her 25th anniversary as president of her alma mater on Sept. 16.
In an outdoor news conference surrounded by cheering supporters, Kennedy said she’s given her entire professional life to building up the school.
“I don’t plan to turn my back on my alma mater,” Kennedy said.
Accompanied by her attorney, Kennedy took no questions from reporters after giving a lengthy presentation about the probe and criticizing media reports about it.
“It is now my time to speak and to set the record straight,” she said.
She said she learned in an April conference with a student that the student had illegally participated in the college’s financial aid program with his former girlfriend.
Kennedy said she informed former college system chancellor Dr. Roy W. Johnson about the situation and he approved the appointment of an internal investigative committee, which presented its findings June 15. Kennedy said she also reported the wrongdoing to the state Examiners of Public Accounts.
Her attorney, Cecil Gardner, said Kennedy testified last Tuesday before a federal grand jury in Birmingham that is looking into possible wrongdoing in the two-year college system. That testimony concerned Johnson, not Kennedy, Gardner said.
The state school board meets next week in Bay Minette. There have been reports that the board could vote on Kennedy’s presidency.
But board member David Byers of Birmingham says interim chancellor Thomas Corts is “in the middle of determining where we are and what should be done next. He knows many more facts than any board member.
“We should wait on his recommendation, which is what the board is bound to do anyway by the statutes governing the board’s authority,” Byers says.
At the news conference, Gardner gave reporters a letter he said he had sent to school board member Betty Peters. The letter demanded that Peters retract her published comment that Kennedy is “up to her eyeballs” in the student aid fraud matter now being investigated. Gardner said the letter is a prelude to a libel lawsuit.
Peters said in a statement Thursday night that she stands by her comments and was referring to audits leading back to 2001 that she said identified obvious managerial problems.
After meeting with Kennedy, Corts’ representatives investigated the situation at Bishop State and forwarded a report to the state attorney general.
During the press conference, Kennedy also said that a $94,000 legislative grant to the school’s foundation was used for its intended purpose and not mixed with scholarship money, as had been reported.
“The grant has never been under investigation in any manner,” she said, adding that the foundation has never been run or controlled by the school president, but is under control of a voluntary board of directors. As president, Kennedy serves as an ex-officio member of the board.
She also insisted that a $170,000 contribution to the foundation came from employee contributions and not taxpayer money. And she said funds were not spent on “alumni parties,” as has been reported, but to cover expenses of the school’s annual alumni dinner, a fundraiser for scholarships.
Kennedy, 61, whose salary is $165,930, said when she became Bishop State president, the school was “far from being in perfect condition.
“Bishop State to me is not just another place to work. It is my alma mater. Where would I be today if it had not been for this my beloved alma mater?” she said. “We are well prepared to continue this struggle at Bishop State because Bishop State deserves more.”
— Associated Press
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