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No minutes for 2-year foundation meetings

By M.J. Ellington (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Questions about financial transactions of a private foundation connected to the two-year college system continued Wednesday as officials acknowledged there are still many things they do not know.

There are no minutes from board of directors meetings available for the Alabama College System Foundation that might shed light on how foundation leaders made spending decisions.

So far there are no copies of bylaws that help determine operating procedures for nonprofit organizations and often determine what is and is not available for public scrutiny.

Two-year system Chancellor Bradley Byrne asked that the foundation's records be sent to his office. Some are still arriving.

The only foundation records available so far include the nonprofit tax forms the organization files each year with the Internal Revenue Service. A list of foundation board members accompanies the tax forms.

Missing bylaws?

Wednesday, two-year college system spokeswoman Jaynne Gilbert said that in materials sent from the foundation so far, no minutes have turned up. Neither have bylaws.

"We are still receiving documents from the foundation," Gilbert said. "We have not determined what we have. Given everything going on, it could be six months before we go through everything."

Byrne said an internal audit now under way may help answer other questions.

One of Byrne's biggest concerns is what happened to more than $400,000 that the foundation moved in late 2006. He told the state Board of Education two weeks ago that the money was apparently spent, but he was unsure how.

"From what I am told, the foundation did not spend the $400,000, but invested it in an investment account where the money is still held," Byrne said this week.

Curiosity about the foundation heated at a state Board of Education work session Sept. 13 during a discussion about how foundations should operate. It's something the board will discuss Thursday at its September meeting at Shoals Community College in Muscle Shoals.

Byrne told board members that he first learned about the private tax-exempt foundation after coming to the chancellor's job in May. That puzzled him because he had served on the Board of Education for eight years.

The state board is the two-year college system's governing body. Others on the board, including two former vice presidents formerly listed as foundation members, were unfamiliar with the foundation.

Neither Ethel Hall, D-Midfield, not Sandra Ray, D-Tuscaloosa, ever attended a foundation meeting or knew she was on the foundation board. Hall's name was on the foundation board list from 1998 to 2004.

On Wednesday, Ray Petty, who was president of SouthTrust Bank in Montgomery and listed as a foundation board member from 1998 to about 2001, said he knew nothing of the group and never attended a meeting.

Other former members on the list who also said they know nothing about the foundation include Alabama Development Office Director Neal Wade.

The list also includes Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, who denied ever participating although his name is on every foundation board list since 1998.

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