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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Theresa Bruno, Business Partner of UAB Exec Shirley Kahn, Has Made Money Off Death Of Blazer Football

Shirley Salloway Kahn
UAB has spent more than $700,000 since last October on a public-relations firm whose owner has a business relationship with the university's senior vice president, Shirley Salloway Kahn, according to a report yesterday from al.com.

This is not the first time we've seen a conflict of interest that raises questions about Shirley Kahn's ethics, or lack thereof. The most recent conflict is multi-layered and even has connections to President Ray Watts' decision to torpedo the UAB football program.

John Archibald reports that Thesis Media, owned by Theresa Harper Bruno, has been paid $723,000 since October 2014 to work on the Campaign for UAB fund-raising project. Bruno opened a Mountain Brook jewelry store called Jordan Alexander several years ago, and her business partner is . . . Shirley Salloway Kahn.

UAB employees have reported receiving e-mails at work promoting Jordan Alexander, Archibald writes. That indicates Kahn (and Bruno) are using public resources and time for their personal business. We already have seen that Kahn has a habit of conducting her personal affairs on the UAB clock. More on that in a moment.

Where does UAB football enter the picture? A company called Theresa Harper Bruno Inc. has been paid $172,500--that's more than $28,000 a month--to help repair the public-relations disaster that ensued when Watts pulled the plug on the Blazer program.

The bottom line? A business partner and personal friend of Shirley Kahn has made a bunch of money from the death of UAB football. The same partner/friend has made even more money off the Campaign for UAB, an effort that Kahn oversees.

The big question: Has some of that money found its way back to Jordan Alexander, the jewelry store? If so, that could be a sign that Shirley Kahn has used her public office to enrich herself. That's the same problem that led to a pending 23-count criminal indictment against Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

Does that question call for an audit of Kahn's financial activities? Sure looks like it to us.

In all, Theresa Harper Bruno has made close to $900,000 from providing public-relations services to UAB. What kind of public-relations expertise does Bruno possess? Well, her company, Thesis Media, does not have a functioning Web site.

Let that sink in for a moment: A company that is designed to connect with the public cannot figure out how to get its own Web site up and running.

What about Shirley Kahn's previous clash with the Alabama Ethics Law? As we reported in October 2012, Kahn regularly encouraged UAB employees to house visitors at her husband's hotel. From that post:

The top fundraising officer at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) regularly tried to use her official position for personal gain, a source tells Legal Schnauzer.

Shirley Salloway Kahn, vice president for development, alumni and external affairs at UAB, regularly encouraged university colleagues to house visitors at the former Pickwick Hotel on Birmingham's Southside. The facility, now called the Hotel Highland at Five Points South, is owned by Kahn Properties. Dr. Donald Kahn is the president of Kahn Properties, and he is married to Shirley Salloway Kahn.

Alabama ethics law states that no public official or public employee is to use her official position for personal gain, for herself or a family member.

What about Kahn's tendency to do personal work while on the UAB (and taxpayer) clock. From our earlier post:

Our source says Shirley Kahn also has been seen apparently working with her husband at a site in English Village where one of his properties is being renovated. This activity took place about 2:30 p.m. in midweek, during the standard UAB work day. Was Kahn working on personal business while on the public clock? According to our source, it certainly looked that way.

Archibald managed to get a limp "statement" from Kahn about her relationship with Theresa Bruno, although we must note that Kahn apparently declined to answer questions. The UAB brain trust wanted no part of our 2012 report, perhaps because it came on the heels of a major fund-raising scandal at the University of North Carolina. From that 2012 post:

Theresa Harper Bruno

How much business has Shirley Salloway Kahn actually sent to a hotel that her husband owns? We raised that question via a phone message and an e-mail to Kahn, with a copy to Dale Turnbough, UAB's associate vice president for public relations and marketing. They have not responded to our query.
The Kahn story comes on the heels of a recent report that two top fundraisers at the University of North Carolina stepped down amid an investigation that they had charged the university for personal travel. Matt Kupec, UNC's vice chancellor for university advancement, resigned on September 9. Tami Hansbrough, a fundraiser in the university's division of student affairs, resigned on September 12.

The dominoes did not stop falling there. UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp announced on Sept. 17 that he will step down at the end of the academic year. This came after The Charlotte Observer asked in an editorial: "How Many Chances Should Thorp Get?" As the editorial points out, Thorp had been dealing with a number of fires on the Chapel Hill campus, including some in athletics. But the announcement of his plan to step down did not come until after the fundraising scandal had sparked banner headlines.

Could the Kahn/Bruno scandal lead to the senior VP's exit? Could it also lead to the ouster of Watts, who already is teetering from a "Fire Ray Watts" campaign that started with the clumsy, classless killing of UAB football?

Those who care about UAB--and that should include everyone who lives in Alabama--ought to be hoping the answer proves to be yes on both questions.


Anonymous said...

Dale doesn't work there anymore. Theresa took her place as interim VP of PR. Yes, that's right, she's double dipping $$ and this has been going on for YEARS.

legalschnauzer said...

Wow, that's interesting, @7:04. I knew Dale Turnbough had retired, but I didn't know Theresa Bruno had replaced her. Are you aware of any qualifications Theresa Bruno has to hold such a position? Is her resume available anywhere? Was her appointment announced to the press?

Anonymous said...

Her qualifications are about the same as Dale's. She produced those awful Jack's commercials. Really it's just about who you know when you get up to the higher positions at UAB. I just don't understand why they are paying her, THB inc, and thesis for marketing and PR.

legalschnauzer said...

To say her qualifications are about the same as Dale's isn't saying much is it? Turnbough was a UAT person from the get go, only interested in UAB when her marriage blew up in Tuscaloosa.

Someone once said: "Successful organizations inevitably attract opportunists."

That's exactly what has happened at UAB. The opportunists have taken over, and they have pretty much zero in the way of ethics.

Anonymous said...

Why does a woman with the last name Bruno seem so money hungry? Is she just that greedy? The millions she already has aren't enough, she also has to feed at the public trough?

Anonymous said...

How does Theresa fit into the Bruno grocery family?

legalschnauzer said...

I think she's married to a member of the grocery family, although I'm not certain about that. Can anybody provide details?

I know that Shirley Kahn's main job at UAB for years has been to ingratiate herself with Birmingham's "big money" crowd. I have a feeling that's how she became so tight with Theresa Bruno.

Anonymous said...

This Bruno family got money from Big B pharmacy. I think Joseph got the most money from the grocery sale, but this is the daughter in law of Joseph's youngest brother's son. They have a lot of kids, so most of the old money isn't there anymore. She's probably just grabbing what she can. I just don't know why it's allowed. I think they're getting one over on Ray Ray. Rumor has it, that when Teresa was at Alys Stephens she fired qualified people and replaced them with her son and his girlfriend.

BlazerDude said...

Here is my favorite part of the article:

"The big question: Has some of that money found its way back to Jordan Alexander, the jewelry store? If so, that could be a sign that Shirley Kahn has used her public office to enrich herself. That's the same problem that led to a pending 23-count criminal indictment against Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

"Does that question call for an audit of Kahn's financial activities? Sure looks like it to us."

legalschnauzer said...

Interesting info, @12:44, thank you. That seems to add nepotism to the mix, which I'm pretty sure is against board rules, maybe ethics law.

I was amazed to learn that several UAB employees have reported receiving e-mails at work promoting the Jordan Alexander jewelry store. Hard to believe Kahn/Bruno would be stupid enough to do that.

legalschnauzer said...

Question for @7:04 or others --

Did Dale Turnbough leave willingly or was she forced out to make room for Theresa Bruno? Was Turnbough retired/fired, at Bruno's urging.

Anonymous said...

I'm really not sure if Dale was forced into retirement or not. She probably was probably already answering to Teresa and saw the writing on the wall. Just speculation though.

Anonymous said...

@1:09 The claim that Kahn solicited Jordan Alexander to UAB employees was made in Archibald's article, but he provided no source or copy of the e-mail. I'm not for Kahn, but I dislike unfounded accusations. Has anyone produced proof of this behavior?

legalschnauzer said...

I haven't seen a copy of the e-mails yet, although any UAB employee is welcome to send me one (or to Archibald). My guess is that Archibald already has copies, but chose not to run them with the story. He seemed to treat that as a fairly minor issue, but I think it could be pretty important. If the e-mails exist, their digital footprint should be out there for a long time--unless they were on a GOP server that Karl Rove can wipe clean.

Anonymous said...

@2:23 Agreed. Just looked at a synopsis of the ethics reform (http://ethics.alabama.gov/docs/GuidelinesPublicOfficialsEmployees7-2012.pdf). This behavior would appear to be in direct violation of the Ethics Law, Section 36-25-5(e):

"No public official or public employee shall, other than in the ordinary course of business, solicit a thing of value from a subordinate or person or business with whom he or she directly inspects, regulates, or supervises in his or her official capacity."

The kicker may be that an investigation into this issue, with full subpoena power, may reveal more important violations.

Anonymous said...

We get emails all the time from the store. Add emails telling you about products and such. The emails are from Jordan Alexander. I've never stepped foot in the place and as a guy I have no intentions of it. So how am I on the mailing list?

legalschnauzer said...

@2:46, any chance you might still have a copy of the one of the e-mails you could send me at rshuler3156@gmail.com?

Anonymous said...

Yes, they exist and I believe that John has them. I believe that Theresa sent them to some of the marketing staff at UAB or at least, put their email address to send blasts. I wouldn't be surprised if UAB hired the same PR group that helped Theresa launch Jordan Alexander.

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for that citation to ethics law, @2:34. I think you nailed the key section.

Interesting that this story surfaces just as Mike Hubbard is in boatloads of doo-doo for alleged violations of ethics law.

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks, @3:18. If John doesn't run them, I would be glad to do it. I think that part of the story is important.

Anonymous said...

It's nice to see this post has a quote from another post you made about an anonymous source. Just to set the record straight, that makes at least four storylines using anonymous sources.

legalschnauzer said...

So, I've used anonymous sources on four stories in almost eight years of writing this blog, totaling 2,813 posts. I urge you to check al.com or NY Times or any newspaper/Web site you want to chose, and check their use of anonymous sources against mine. I guarantee you LS is way under the norm.

I think you know the stories in question are accurate. If not, why would you be here reading them? They bother you because they are true, and they gore some ox that you keep tucked away in your twisted little mind.

Anonymous said...

Turnbough wasn't forced out. She left because she could.

Anonymous said...

This "PR firm" is a one-woman show. There is no firm. Just Ms. Bruno. And Theresa's husband is James A. Bruno.

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for the info, @11:17. That means the only expertise provided is what Ms. Bruno possesses. And she apparently doesn't have enough expertise to get a Web site up and running.

I think it's intriguing that, per John Archibald's reporting, Shirley Kahn did not list her interest in jewelry store on her ethics form. That tells me: (a) She didn't fill out the form properly; (b) She's trying to hide something connected to the store; (c) She might have intentionally tried to deceive the ethics commission.

Anonymous said...

High maintenance botox socialites are such fashion accessories for any Academic institution ! Damage control PR bimbos don't come cheap do they ? This is the stuff of Dallas and Dynasty.

legalschnauzer said...

Yes, and there is a lot of botox and plastic between that pair. Shirley Kahn must make noises when she walks from all the chemical enhancements she's had. Knowledgeable sources also say that Shirley has engaged in some interesting activities on UAB property, on UAB time, in UAB office space, behind closed doors. These activities did not involve academic research. They were much more "physical" and "social" in nature. In fact, a long-time and well-known administrative assistant from the old Mortimer Jordan Hall once walked in on Shirley and a VP while they were engaging in a colorful form of "social interaction." No wonder Shirley moved up the ladder so smoothly.

Anonymous said...

Well they have a whole mammoth department of Media Relations and PR on the 13th floor. Guess they had to sub the football debacle out to delta force. Sadly nothing surprises me anymore at the Rouge's gallery of white collar criminals that is UAB.