SACS wants Governor Bentley removed from college boards


Gov. Robert Bentley (R-Alabama)

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DECATUR, Ala. - A reputable organization that accredits colleges and universities questions Governor Robert Bentley's role on college boards. In fact, they recommend legislation to remove him.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) recommends Alabama lawmakers remove the governor from all college boards.

While reviewing the state's community college system, which they ended up accrediting, SACS discovered what they call a conflict of interest.

"Because of him signing the appropriations bill at the end of each session, and also being in charge of the appointments of the appointees that serve on that board, I think [SACS] is concerned about a conflict of interest," explained Representative Terri Collins (R-Decatur).

Letter from SACS President Belle Wheelan to Rep. Collins and Sen. Brewbaker
Letter from SACS President Belle Wheelan to Rep. Collins and Sen. Brewbaker

SACS president Belle Wheelan penned a letter to Representative Collins and Senator Dick Brewbaker, the chairs of the House and Senate education committees, asking for legislation to remove Gov. Bentley.

The governor's office has since responded, issuing the following statement:

"We have received the letter; however it is important to note we did not receive formal communication from SACS regarding this matter. We disagree strongly with the assumption that the Governor has undue influence on boards of institutions. It appears the recommendations outlined in this letter are misguided and politically motivated. The placement of the Governor on the board is set up by statute and by our Constitution, and I'm going to obey our Constitution."

Rep. Collins says SACS is an important accreditation, so she is open to meeting with SACS leaders to discuss their issues further.

"Addressing any concerns they have will be a priority," she said. "I don't believe we've seen a conflict in the past so I'll just have to hear what those concerns over the governance are, and maybe they are things that can be worked out without legislation."

She adds that she plans to make time to meet with them before the legislative session begins on February 7.