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University of Mobile garners ‘excellent’ status at convention

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–For the first time since ethical questions concerning finances were raised three years ago, the University of Mobile has received an “excellent report” from the Alabama Baptist State Convention’s audit committee.

Speaking to messengers during the state convention’s Nov. 17-18 annual meeting in Birmingham, Steve Richardson, chairman of the audit committee, noted significant improvement at the Baptist-related college. Richardson also commended all other Alabama Baptist entities for receiving excellent reports.

After meeting with administrative representatives of each entity, the convention audit committee was able to submit “unqualified reports” to each, which means the entities’ financial statuses are in excellent condition. Richardson highlighted UM because of past concerns and financial stress.

In 1994, UM made an agreement with the convention to stop sending money to its branch campus in San Marcos, Nicaragua ­- a venture the university’s former president, Michael Magnoli, initiated without seeking convention approval. The agreement also called for the Nicaragua school to pay back the unauthorized $2.3 million convention funding invested in the Latin America Branch Campus.

However, in the spring of 1997, it was revealed that not only had the $2.3 million not been paid back to the Mobile campus, but an additional $1 million had been sent to Nicaragua. Soon after that discovery, Magnoli resigned under pressure.

In February of this year, Mark Foley, an administrator from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, took the reins and, according to Richardson, is showing “positive results.”

“Our committee has studied financial and other related matters, and we can verify that Dr. Foley has taken significant action,” Richardson said. In an interview following the report, Richardson noted areas of improvement such as UM’s “orderly withdrawal from Nicaragua” and the board of trustees raising half a million dollars for UM.

UM also has cleared from its books assets from Nicaragua on which it did not hold a clear title. “UM is financially stable and operating in the black,” Richardson said. And “student enrollment is going up again.”

“The positive affirmation given by the audit committee confirms the progress the University of Mobile has made during the past year,” Foley said. “I’m overwhelmed by the response and support we received from the Alabama Baptist community during the convention.”

Gary Enfinger, chairman of UM board of trustees, breathed a sigh of relief with the report. “There’s a lot of people who worked real hard to put us in a position to get a positive report,” Enfinger said.

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  • Jennifer Davis Rash