Statement: Hubbard had advantage

Published 1:06am Wednesday, May 28, 2014

By BOB MARTIN

I’ve known Donald Watkins for many years. It goes back to when I was a court administrator for the State Judicial Department and had to deal with many lawyers, judges, problems and issues which would arise at times.

First, let me opine that Donald is first an entrepreneur, and second, a lawyer and problem solver…and a pretty good one at that. But his interest in the ongoing controversy at Alabama State University is personal. His father, Dr. Levi Watkins, Sr., was the president of ASU in the 1970s and 1980s and Donald grew up on the campus. He has also previously served on the ASU Board of Trustees.

He is also not one who endears those who disagree with whatever project or controversy he is pushing. Someone wrote this past week that the situation at the school looks more like a power struggle between Watkins and some others with the new ASU President Gwendolyn Boyd, who says Watkins does not, in any way, represent Alabama State and that she does not consult with him.

To which Watkins retorts that he does represent the school, albeit on a pro bono basis as to assist the university’s general counsel, and has been doing so since the end of last year. And last Thursday he suggested Boyd was charging excessive amounts for her travel expenses.

The school needs to get on with resolving issues with whatever organizational changes the new president is proposing. The quicker that is done, the better it will be for Alabama State. But I think I can assure all that Donald Watkins won’t just go away, quietly or otherwise.

 

It was first reported 14 months ago in The Alabama Political Reporter, by Bill Britt and important enough to be repeated: The speculation has been out there for years that Mike Hubbard had an unfair advantage in obtaining an Auburn University media contract worth millions of dollars. It was rumored that Hubbard was given the sealed bids of other media companies vying for the lucrative multimedia rights to Auburn athletics. Now, for the first time, the person who personally helped Hubbard win that contract has come forward.

Hubbard was at Auburn for six years as an assistant sports information director before leaving in 1990 to work for Host Communications, Inc., which held the media rights to Auburn athletics. Hubbard then wrestled the contract away from Host through a no-bid contract in 1994 and formed the Auburn Network. In the late 1990s the Auburn Network began experiencing financial problems. Trying to rebuild and facing what he apparently perceived as possible retribution from the school’s athletic director, Hubbard turned to then-Auburn University chief lobbyist Buddy Mitchell for assistance. Hubbard told him his company was on the verge of going bankrupt. Forced by Auburn to go through a competitive bid process for the first time, according to Mitchell’s statements, Hubbard was given access to all of his competitor’s proprietary proposals prior to making his winning offer for the contract.

Mitchell, who was executive director of the Office of Governmental Affairs at Auburn from 1993 to 2004, said in a sworn affidavit, that he personally delivered the competitors’ proposals to Hubbard. In accepting Hubbard’s five-year, $8.5 million deal in 2002, Auburn, in turn, rejected a competitor’s bid that offered $12.5 million over the same period. That meant Auburn lost $4 million.

 

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. Email him at: bob@montgomeryindependent.com.

 

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