Monday, October 8, 2012

UAB's Shirley Salloway Kahn Tried to Use Official Position to Boost Her Husband's Hotel Business

Shirley Salloway Kahn

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.

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.

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.

That indicates it was the fundraising embarrassment that finally drove the chancellor from office. It also indicates more bad news might be coming on that front.

UNC's controversy arose after press inquiries about trips that Kupec and Hansbrough, who were romantically involved, took to see Hansbrough's son, Ben, play basketball at Notre Dame. Audits showed the trips were charged to university accounts. An investigation is ongoing, even though Kupec and Hansbrough already have resigned their positions.

I worked at UAB for 19 years, long enough to learn two maxims of the higher-education world:

(1) Mixing official business with personal pleasure is a bad idea;

(2) Using your official position for personal gain might be an even worse idea.

What would an audit show about UAB visitors staying at The Hotel Highland at Five Points South--and how many of them were directed there by Shirley Salloway Kahn? Our investigation is ongoing, but it seems clear that Kahn and UAB's chief spokesperson are not anxious to answer questions about it.


Anonymous said...

This isn't going to surprise anyone who knows Shirley Kahn.

TLR said...

This sounds like a job for the Alabama Ethics Commission. Are they worth two cents?

Kahuna said...

I find it interesting when people don't respond to questions about situations like this. Just makes them look guilty.

legalschnauzer said...

Good point, Kahuna. It's particularly interesting when people who are engaged in the practice of media relations refuse to respond to media inquiries.

In this case, Dale Turnbough is UAB's director of media relations. Her job is to respond to questions from people like me. She's paid a six-figure salary to do that.

Shirley Kahn is Turnbough's boss. UAB's entire "external relations" reports to her. And yet, she can't answer a few simple questions from a reporter?

The questions are real easy: Did you send UAB business to your husband's hotel? If so, how much money did you and your husband make off these deals?

Anonymous said...


I hear the ethics commission might be worth 2 cents, but not much more.