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Subpoenas, $400,000 donation reported at Univ. of Mobile

MOBILE, Ala. (BP)–As federal investigations continue at the University of Mobile, a $400,000 donation comes at a good time for the Baptist school embroiled in financial woes.
Federal subpoenas began arriving at the University of Mobile in July as investigators sought records of board of trustees meetings and other documents.
Walter Hovell, acting president of the 2,700-student, Baptist- affiliated institution, confirmed the probe centers on people who have been within the university setting and on the operation of the financially troubled school’s campus in Nicaragua.
The subpoenas Hovell received asked for the minutes of university board of trustees’ meetings and other records, which Hovell would not identify.
U.S. Attorney J. Don Foster denied the university itself is the target of any investigation yet. Foster said he would not deny investigations of people formerly associated with the university but neither would he confirm it.
However, Foster noted “if there were an investigation, it would most likely come from the IRS, FBI or Postal Inspector.”
Foster said Aug. 25 he expects more subpoenas soon.
The Alabama Baptist newsjournal learned July 14 the U.S. Department of Education is investigating the university regarding financial concerns.
John P. Higgins Jr., deputy inspector general at DOE, informed The Alabama Baptist a Freedom of Information Act request it filed for public records on the university was denied because the records were “currently being used in an ongoing Office of the Inspector General investigation, and we cannot release any information at this time.”
Troy Morrison, executive secretary-treasurer of the Alabama convention, also went on record earlier this spring noting his knowledge of several federal investigations.
The university, particularly its operation of the Nicaragua campus, has been the center of controversy for the last four years. That controversy boiled over this spring when Michael Magnoli, former president ousted in May after a 13-year tenure, informed trustees the school faced severe financial problems, including a budget shortfall of $2.2 million this year.
Members of the Alabama Baptist State Convention executive committee took action in a June 3 meeting to recommend the convention’s annual $2 million in funding for the university be withheld if an acceptable plan to restore its financial stability was not submitted by July 15. University of Mobile trustees adopted a revised budget July 14 in response.
Tom Whatley, chair of a subcommittee handling the Mobile situation, was to meet Aug. 25 to review the university’s plan before the state board of missions considers the matter during its Sept. 4-5 board meeting.
Whatley, board chairman, Leon Ballard, convention president, and Morrison circulated information in July on the University of Mobile to all Alabama Baptist ministers.
Urging pastors to be informed, the three leaders noted in a cover letter contained in the packet of newspaper clippings, “We believe the convention must let the university solve its own problems. Any involvement … could result in dire financial consequences for the convention. We must protect the missionary enterprises of the convention.”
In spite of the troubles, however, the school got some good news. Harry and Jean Manglos of Foley, Ala., announced Aug. 19 they are giving the school their share of the proceeds — $400,000 — from the sale of 40 acres of land.
Bill Hart, vice president for development at the university, said the gift is significant to the institution and worthwhile for the couple as well. “This provides them with both a guaranteed income and significant tax benefits,” he said.
Manglos noted the donation to the university in which one grandchild attends comes after long thought. “We’ve been thinking about how to make the best use of this inheritance for a long time,” he said. “I think we made the best decision, both for us and for future generations.”
In other good news, the university’s accreditation for its bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing has been extended for the maximum eight-year period by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, according to a news release issued by the university Aug. 26. The commission voted the extension Aug. 8. At the master’s level, the university offers concentrations in nursing administration, adult health nursing and family nurse practitioner.
In 1994, messengers to the annual Alabama Baptist state convention affirmed an agreement limiting financial support of the university’s Latin American Branch Campus in Nicaragua to gifts specifically generated for that campus and funds generated from that campus. Another part of the agreement required trustees to return to the Mobile campus about $2.3 million used to initiate the LABC, a figure that has since growth to $3.3 million.
Trustee chairman Robert Maxwell told the Alabama board executive committee May 15 the university had broken that commitment. Two days earlier, university trustees, meeting behind closed doors, had ousted Magnoli.

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  • Laurie A. Lattimore