MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Birmingham orthopedic surgeon and former Alabama State University trustee Lawrence Lemak violated that university’s conflict of interest policy when his businesses or entities that employed his family members benefited from contracts with the school, says.
Lemak, who has practiced sports medicine in Birmingham for decades, is one of the most renowned orthopedic surgeons in the country. He has served as a medical advisor to several professional sports associations and has served a team physician for Auburn University, Samford University and Birmingham-Southern College, in addition to ASU.
The audit, commissioned by Gov. Robert Bentley, found what it describes and numerous conflicts of interest among ASU trustees and employees, and it outlines possible fraud at the school. The governor, who serves on the board of trustees because of his office, has asked the board to halt its search for a new president until a further investigation can be completed.
The auditors, Forensic Strategic Solutions, depict Lemak as having tangled financial interests with the university. Lemak resigned from the ASU board in April.
“Dr. Lawrence Lemak was involved in several entities that violate conflict of interest policy (among other things) for ASU as codified in the Alabama Code,” the audit said.
Lemak’s statement of economic interest, filed with the Alabama Ethics Commission, disclosed that Lemak served as the ASU team’s physician. However, the auditor did not find evidence that he was paid directly for that job.
Rather, the auditor found that ASU made payments to Lemak’s non-profit foundation, the National Center for Sports Safety.
ASU acted as a pass-through to NCSS with funds allocated by the Alabama Legislature. Earlier this year, a lawyer representing Lemak acknowledged to The Montgomery Advertiser that ASU had acted as a pass-through but said that there was nothing to hide.
The auditors, however, found that ASU kept 20 percent of the funds allocated by the legislature as an administrative cost, but the university did not provide to the auditors any evidence that it did any work to justify those charges.
Between 2007 and 2013, the legislature directed more than $ 2.7 million through ASU, which kept about $ 424,000 of those funds. The rest it passed to NCSS.
The funds that ASU kept were used for whatever purposes university officials needed them for, the auditors’ interviews with university officials revealed.
Meanwhile, Lemak’s relatives benefited from the NCSS funding.
“Lemak’s son, Matthew Lemak, served as Chairman of the Board for NCSS and received a salary for at least two year,” the audit said. “Lemak’s daughter-in-law, Kathryn Gwaltney, served as Executive Director of NCSS and received a salary for at least four years.”
Other entities owned or controlled by Lemak and his family received funds through the ASU appropriations, the auditors said. Those entities received about $ 740,000 in pass-through allocations, according to the audit.
ASU also paid about $ 865,000 to the Alabama Sports Foundation for “purported ticket sales to certain events,” even though the Alabama Sports Foundation had no contract and the university provided little to no supporting documentation for the work performed.
Lemak is the founder and chairman of the Alabama Sports Foundation.
Efforts to reach Lemak through his son Matthew Monday night were unsuccessful.