Records detail payments between Alabama State, consultant [Montgomery Advertiser, Ala.]
(Montgomery Advertiser (AL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 25--Work records completed by a contract employee at Alabama State University show more than three months out of a 13-month contract unaccounted for and that she was being compensated for marketing work that two outside firms were being paid more than $120,000 to complete at the same time.
Falicia Rhodes, whose relationship with ASU trustee Elton Dean was questioned in a recently released forensic audit report, was paid $78,000 ($6,000 per month) between October 2011 and November 2012, during which time she developed "relationships with corporate and community leaders resulting in funding opportunities" for ASU's programs, according to records obtained by the Montgomery Advertiser.
ASU officials, responding to several written questions from the Advertiser, said they were pleased with Rhodes' work and defended her hiring and work record.
"Ms. Rhodes' performance as a marketing consultant was necessary, effective, and financially beneficial to the university," ASU officials said in an email response. "The marketing dollars she generated for the university far exceeded the cost of her services."
As part of the contract requirements associated with her work, Rhodes was required to fill out monthly "Reports of Services," in which she detailed her daily work. Those reports, often filled with grammatical and spelling errors, show Rhodes missed more than two months of work due to medical leave, vacations and family members' illnesses and leaves at least another month's worth of time unaccounted for.
But monthly payment records, which were approved each month by Bernadette Chapple, an associate executive vice president in ASU's Center for Leadership and Public Policy department, show Rhodes never missed a monthly paycheck. Her original contract, which went through the Center for Leadership and Public Policy, was approved by ASU president William Harris.
"Ms. Rhodes performed the duties and responsibilities required of her despite any temporary health issues she experienced," ASU said in the email. "Contract consultants do not receive sick leave. Instead, they are paid for the scope of work performed in accordance with their contract requirements."
Contacted on her cell phone by the Advertiser two weeks ago, Rhodes abruptly disconnected the call when a reporter identified himself. Recent attempts to contact her have been unsuccessful.
At the same time ASU was paying Rhodes to sell suites and look for sponsorships, it also employed GSP Consulting (now known as Innovation Sports and Entertainment), a Pittsburgh-based marketing firm that the university hired to sell sponsorship and luxury boxes in the new $62 million ASU football stadium.
Between July 2011 and January 2012, GSP received more than $124,000 in payments from ASU, according to financial records the school keeps online. While the online records stop there, GSP continued to do work for the university until April 2012, according to statements made in a breach-of-contract lawsuit that GSP filed against ASU last November.
ASU officials, in their email response, contend that Rhodes' work was more locally focused, while GSP's goal was to attract national brands as sponsors.
However, according to the contract between ASU and GSP, part of GSP's agreement with the school called for it to sub-contract local and statewide marketing and sales work to the Birmingham-based Bruno Sports Marketing and Event Team, which it did. The contract shows ASU was to pay the firm a percentage of the sales of luxury suites and other premium seating in the stadium, and GSP and Bruno would then split the proceeds in an unspecified manner.
How much Rhodes' employment earned ASU isn't clear. At a recent ASU student government association meeting, associate vice president for development Zillah Fluker, who is named often in Rhodes' service reports, said she worked with Rhodes and that Rhodes was responsible for selling five suites at ASU's stadium, generating over $500,000 in revenue for the school.
However, according to Rhodes' own service descriptions, she did little work to secure some of those sales. For example, Rhodes lists "Bell Enterprises" as one of the companies she sold a luxury suite to in 2012. But according to her service report from Feb. 2012, the first contact she had with Bell Enterprise owner Mary Bell was when Bell called to ask for a receipt from her first payment on the suite.
There were similar circumstances listed in Rhodes' service reports for suites sold to TCU Consulting, the Beasley Allen law firm, Larry Puckett Chevrolet and the Cloverdale Group. In each instance, the first reference Rhodes makes to these businesses is stating that she's retrieving their deposits for suites. There is no notation that she ever met with or participated in sales meetings with any of those clients.
ASU trustee Alfred Seawright, who owns Medical Place, a medical supply distribution company, said Friday that Rhodes did sell him a luxury suite at ASU. In her service descriptions, Rhodes says she phoned Seawright "about the suite he wanted to purchased (sic)" on March 12, 2012. The next mention of Seawright came on March 19, when Rhodes said she retrieved a $7,500 deposit from him.
On June 1, 2012, Rhodes lists six suites she has sold, including one to Medical Place.
The service reports also show Rhodes missed numerous days. There is no record of work for her from Dec. 9, 2011 through Jan. 2, 2012. Likewise, there is a gap from Oct. 19, 2012 through Oct. 31, 2012, which was the end of her contract at the school.
Rhodes also took two week-long vacations, missed nine days when her daughter and mother had surgeries and was off herself after surgery from Aug. 15, 2012 through Sept. 14, 2012. During her month long "medical leave," Rhodes said she contacted nine businesses by phone about sponsorship opportunities.
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