|Shirley Salloway Kahn|
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.