MONTGOMERY — The bylaws committee of the University of West Alabama on Friday approved a proposal to amend the regional institution’s charter to grant the trustees some review of employee compensation set by the president.

The panel also approved limits on how long a member can stay on the board after the expiration of a term.

The compensation review and the proposal to limit trustees to one year of service on the board after the expiration of a term are among a series of amendments the board wants to send to lawmakers in Montgomery. The amendments to the UWA charter in the state code require approval of the lawmakers.

Ahead of the 2018 regular session of the Legislature, the board approved legislative proposals to amend the regional institution’s charter to allow it to establish a mechanism for removing board members for cause, review the appointment of senior administrators by the UWA president, and meet and vote by telephone. The proposals were not introduced in the Legislature during the term this spring.

“Last year being an election, year we thought maybe not the best year to submit,” said trustee Justin Smith, who chairs the bylaws committee.

The new proposals approved by the committee will go to the full board for consideration at its regular meeting in December.

The bylaws committee approved amending the enabling legislation to add language similar to the proposal for review of senior administrators. Under the proposal, the UWA president would still have authority over the hiring of instructors and officers and setting salary and compensation, but the board would be granted the ability to review and concur with the decisions.

“I am not sure I want veto power, but I want some discussion,” trustee Jerry Smith said during the meeting Friday.

The proposal approved by the board in the spring would add language to the UWA charter giving the board the ability to review and concur with the president’s appointments of senior cabinet members including the provost; vice presidents of student affairs, business affairs, and institutional advancement; athletic director and any other member of the president’s council or similar body.

The university’s charter was amended in 2006 to give the president the sole authority to hire employees, set salaries and define the duties. That 2006 amendment was part of organizational changes at UWA meant to satisfy concerns about trustee micromanagement raised during an investigation and probation imposed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 2003.

Justin Smith introduced the topic of limiting the time trustees may serve between the expiration of their terms and the appointment of successors. Currently, board members are limited to two terms, but may service until the appointment and confirmation by the Alabama Senate of a successor.

“That is really not much benefit until the governor appoints someone else,” UWA attorney Mike Kendrick said. “There could be circumstances where those terms never end.”

Currently, Trustee Terry Bunn has been serving on the board, though his most recent term expired in December 2015. Bunn’s term was not discussed by the committee on Friday.

Former Gov. Robert Bentley nominated three new members and re-appointed another member of the UWA board during the 2016 regular session but did not take any action on Bunn’s seat on the board. The governor’s office also did not take any action in 2017 or earlier this year when it appointed Jody Wise Campbell to fill the vacant District 1 seat and re-appointed Jerry Smith, Vice President Randy Hillman and trustee Victor Vernon for additional terms.

The proposal would limit a sitting trustee to one year of service beyond the expiration of a term. Once the one-year period is complete, the trustee would step down and the seat would be vacant until a new member is appointed by the governor’s office and confirmed by the Alabama Senate.

“What that does practically speaking is it forces the governor and Legislature to take action,” Kendrick said.

The proposal previously approved by the board for removing a board member would add clauses to the UWA charter allowing trustees to be removed for criminal convictions, missing three consecutive meetings or violating conflict of interest rules. Currently, there is no board mechanism for the removal of a trustee.

A trustee would be automatically removed if they are convicted of a felony. A board member could be removed by a majority vote following a due-process hearing if they have been convicted of a misdemeanor involving fraud, theft or embezzlement.

The board also is also seeking the ability to meet and vote remotely by telephone or other communications equipment. Public notices must be given in accordance with the Alabama Open Meetings Act, and the public would be able to listen to the meetings.

 

Reach Ed Enoch at ed.enoch@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0209.