Steven 'Crash' Leath Hits The Silk Like A Good Auburn Man
August 1, 2019 | View PDF
I painfully witnessed ‘unonimous’ [sic] installation of Leath as AU’s 19th President at the University Ballroom March 20th 2017; it was a sound forecast he would “crash and burn” if/when sabotaging the gains of President Gogue’s stewardship.
AU’s Board of Trustees [BoT] unanimously selected Steven ‘Crash’ Leath after a six-month national ‘search’ which provided little on how it was conducted. Eerily similar to our Lee County Commission Chair who correctly misspoke affirming something passed ‘unonimously’ [sic] at a meeting where all had been decided prior to putting on the show for the record and press present. Nothing like hiding behind solidarity to further conceal the process used to brazenly obtain the result. Noticeably omitted at the “Ballroom Blitz” installment event were any microphones for question/comment from faculty, students and taxpayers. Note to BoT: consider NOT bringing out AU’s 20th President until AFTER your sham installation is complete. The dearth of announcements on our next Presidential search process suggests another poor ‘crash & burn’ result. Especially considering those responsible for the Leath debacle are still in charge and face absolutely no discipline from either the Governor or the Auburn Faculty, but it appears some relief is finally in motion in our federal courts.
Let us first consider the recent quote from our current (non-doctor) Governor Kay Ivey, “As president of the Board of Trustees, as governor and as an alumna, I have a vested interest in the future of Auburn University. I have confidence in the members of the Board of Trustees as we move forward with this process.” Sad to observe Ivey taking the same BCA path to perdition as did Bentley. Many considered Steve Pelham de facto governor given Ivey’s capacity… more specifically Pelham was Ivey’s ‘point man’ dealing with AU’s athletic scandals, lawsuits, investigations, etc. Wanting to be another ‘hog at the AU trough’ and get his public servant cut for abusing the dedicated and productive at Auburn, Pelham wanted the economic development position along with “Chief of Staff” largess created by Leath (designed to bring/protect his crony from Iowa St. that one could easily imagine knew most of the dirt from the dropped investigation once Auburn took ‘Crash’ off of Iowa’s litigation ‘to do’ list) to trump up his three year RSA [Retirement Systems of Alabama] exit.
Those looking for a ray of hope noticed the moment Jay Gogue was voted to return as interim president, Mr. Pelham disappeared as “Chief of Staff” from the presidential webpage and has apparently been demoted to just another lowly Associate VP, among our overpaid administrators at AU. One of my colleagues nomenclated this Auburn’s equivalent of sending one to a Soviet gulag in Siberia. Fodder for another column is Ivey’s flyboy (Trustee Jimmy Rane) attacks on recent budgeting to AU at the same time some think Mr. Rane (and other unindicted public servant coconspirators) would like to use student and taxpayer money to keep a felon quiet if he ever does prison time. Jailbird sonatas to reduce time served evokes fear in some of our most entrenched Auburn thugs.
Next consider the outrageous yet revealing Chronicle of Higher Education quotes from Auburn University Senate Chair, Dr. Mike Baginski, “President Leath was very well liked by everyone I know, and he did so much in so little time.” Baginski, an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer engineering, said in an email to The Chronicle, “He’s done everything very well, and everyone I know is surprised.” Speaks volumes on who one knows. How blind and amenable to corruption can a so-called faculty ‘leader’ be? Did he miss the $17+ million blown on the President’s mansion? Did he miss the absurd contract given to Gus Malzahn? Did he miss the First Amendment lawsuit filed by Prof. Stern specifically naming Leath as a defendant? Did all those Senate meetings Leath failed to show go unnoticed? Or is this the same Dr. Baginski I observed telling Prof. Stern to “get away from the microphone” when Stern specifically began to question Leath’s conduct before the Faculty (dare I type Administrative) Senate?
Allow me another forecast, given the dearth of discussion on the process to select our 20th president, Dr. Baginski will probably be “selected” to “represent” the “faculty” on the search committee. Just as former University Senate Chair Dr. Larry Teeter “represented” the “faculty” so well on the last presidential search committee. Little surprise this is the same public servant faculty member I see named as a defendant in a current lawsuit search alleging violation of Prof. Joe Majdalani’s First Amendment rights. In my cursory court watching, I can’t recall AU defending three simultaneous First Amendment lawsuits. Two name Leath in individual capacity and charge him with retaliation and conspiracy to violate civil rights. The timed and triplicate $1.5 million payoffs to Leath start to make sense given the desire for leverage as these lawsuits and further investigations potentially unfold. Insiders I know (clearly different from those Dr. Baginski interacts with) suggest these lawsuits and pending investigations plaguing AU are what finally generated “Crash” hitting the silk (a.k.a. cash) now underwritten by Alabamians instead of Iowans.
Most know I was a fan of Pres. Gogue’s stewardship - it was easy to forecast he’d be an improvement over crony Ed Richardson. When Trustee John Denson was the marginal vote to get the Muse result over the Lowder gang, it signaled enough courageous souls were still at Auburn willing and able to battle the damage being done by this failed businessman and his minion ‘public servants.’ The Ballroom Blitz style installation of Leath I witnessed went a long way to thwart hope and morale our “Boob&Hubbard/Lowder&Rane Daze” was attenuating. As forecasted, it didn’t take long for Leath’s corrupt spirit to spread throughout AU, creating the “Chief of Staff” position (because we just don’t have enough bloated administrative paychecks at Auburn) and undoing the positive changes Pres. Gogue initiated to reduce the damage some of the worst (tenured) dead wood and schemers impose upon AU, far too insulated from market forces.
Jay Gogue had no fear being publicly known in the search which resulted in becoming the 18th president of AU. Gogue had nothing to hide, conveying strong desire to return to Auburn and confidence as to how secure he was with his current position as Chancellor of the University of Houston System and University of Houston President. What better indicator to a current employer of your asset value than being sought out by other employers? I was among those who begged Pres. Gogue to offer staying on for another search given the poor  result… not that I think I have any influence on Jay, he nonetheless made the offer – it was foolishly declined. So here we are years and countless millions of dollars later back to where a wise BoT would have been in April 2017 and could have avoided the damage and lawsuits if we had another Gogue caliber president. Sadly Felon Hubbard unindicted coconspirator public servants (dare I type masters) want leveraged and compromised pieces of carbon like ‘Crash’ at the helm to facilitate their bidding, but they have to be smart enough to deal with a few courageous souls at AU who give their blood, sweat, time and treasure to block the most corrupt and deleterious in the ranks.
Far too many times upper administrative candidates make short lists because they initially show so well on paper but when doing minimal homework, it doesn’t take long to get ‘the rest of the story’ as Paul Harvey would say. I observed this many years ago with President Ryan Amacher at UTA [http://www.dallasobserver.com/news/fast-times-at-uta-6404568] who kept making short lists until he finally found a university which didn’t do their homework. If a candidate is NOT secure enough in their current job to let them know others recognize their accomplishments and would like to have them in their employ, I DON’T want them. This recent way of conducting searches is nothing more than obfuscation which far too often benefits the growing minions of colluding administrators fleecing taxpayers and saddling students with increasingly more debt further evidenced by the $4.5 million ‘Crash’ landing result here at AU.
Even the faculty Senate meeting the day after Leath’s installation addressed lack of transparency and no short list offered for public consideration. Noticeably absent was the newly appointed Leath who would’ve been well served to attend since Gogue was committed to UVA for accreditation duties - only his third Senate meeting missed in TEN years. The Ballroom Blitz was long on thanks for this ‘broadly represented’ outcome rhetoric, and very short on explaining extreme confidentiality at a PUBLIC university. If allowed to question before installation, some would’ve asked about crashed planes, misuse of public property, odd land transactions, etc. Perhaps there were many good answers for investigations at Iowa State, but didn’t the last big Auburn hire away from Iowa State, Gene Chizik if memory serves, also go up in smoke? In keeping with Jay Jacobs type cash exits we can now conclude Leath is indeed a ‘Good Auburn Man’… another “crash” course as to precisely what’s wrong at AU.
Walking over to the ‘Ballroom Blitz’ a colleague forecasted it would be hours before they voted if the event was to engage in discussion and input from the ‘Auburn Family.’ I forecasted 20 minutes; I was wrong… it was over in less than twelve! The most notable & quotable moment followed a very loud and distinctly delayed ‘AYE’ from infamous Dr. Gov. Bentley to finally make it “UNONIMOUS” - prompting Charles McCrary (President Pro Tem of the AU BoT) to proclaim, “The Voice of God.” Our embarrassment was quickly noticed in Iowa. Des Moines KCCI News reported, "Last month, officials decided against filing criminal charges against Leath following an investigation into whether he broke the law with his use of school aircraft. That review began after an audit found Leath used university planes for medical appointments in Minnesota, personal flight lessons and trips home to North Carolina. He has now reimbursed the university for the flights. Auburn picked Leath after a search that didn't include an announcement of finalists."
Gogue’s presidency began July 2007. This two-time AU graduate’s repute for engaging with students, supporting faculty and creating a strong university partnership with the local community was well earned. What a difference from Richardson’s reign. Stepping down as President, Gogue remained at AU teaching a higher education administration course and conducting special projects. Not long before all this ‘blew up’ Jay asked for my input on 50 Management Tips which I found superb - not surprising from a well-seasoned administrator/manager. The most truthful quote of the ‘Ballroom Blitz’ day from McCrary was, “The contribution Jay and Susie Gogue made to Auburn is immeasurable, we’re fortunate they will remain part of the Auburn community.” The 12 minute Ballroom Blitz engagement would’ve made any Stuka pilot proud. Drop the bomb then quickly fly out without answering questions certainly is a psychological tactic to make a point. Debate shall not be tolerated at Auburn University and y’all had better know your place. Steven ‘Crash’ Leath’s stewardship over the Jule Collins Smith Museum was so poor, I could no longer send friends/inquiries to donate their fine artwork - I pray this (and many other things) will also be reversed/repaired with President Gogue back at the helm.
Some readers may wonder why I devoted my cherished Alabama Gazette column space for this with so many other issues (The Squad, Justice Stevens, etc.) to address. It was revealing how many contacted me about my past column on Leath’s installation (reprinted in the Opelika Observer) as so many of the politburo academics and sycophant administrators were reportedly so adamant about their “surprise” in Leath’s exit. For those who cared enough to do a little homework on Leath, the “Crash” into Samford Hall and all the collateral damage these past years was certainly no “surprise.” Perhaps the most ironic quote out of Auburn during all of this was directed at Chuck Person. "Person's poor decisions failed Auburn in every way," the victim impact letter said. "They have resulted in considerable financial expense relating to internal and external investigations that confirmed the limited scope of Person's misconduct. Those costs -- which are already considerable -- will continue to rise through Auburn's completion of the NCAA process, which presents the possibility of significant sanctions and penalties flowing from Person's criminal actions. Perhaps more damaging, Person's actions have immeasurably damaged Auburn's national reputation based on it being attached -- fairly or unfairly -- to Person's criminal spectacle." So where was Auburn’s “victim impact letter” related to the twelve felony convictions of “Mr. Auburn,” a.k.a., Mike Hubbard? Most notably the $150K check written by Auburn Trustee Jimmy Rane to Felon Hubbard in comparison to the only $91K Chuck took “on the side.” Financial expense and damage to Auburn’s repute from the Leath debacle far eclipses those related to Chuck, but don’t expect any “victim impact letter” from Auburn due to their despicably convenient “no disparagement clause” in the nationally infamous $4.5 million parachute given to finally eject good ol’ Steven “Crash” Leath from AU.
Postscript: many have asked why I’ve not yet turned in my AU office key… will I change my mind with Pres. Gogue back at the helm? If it were not for administrative incompetence letting accreditations expire, I would still be teaching my last class for the APAEP [Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project] as planned and hoped. The biggest reason I’m still holding/using my office is to deal with incompetence/admitted errors at RSA who provide nothing to audit/check before making their errors, but make members suffer the time and effort to deal with their errors. Perhaps there’s some ‘Devine intervention’ in play, but it would have to be much more profound. Pres. Gogue was a big factor in getting me to return to AU from AUM. If Pres. Gogue repairs the damage Leath ‘crashed’ upon my unit, it could reduce the aggravation enough for me to want to rebuild what was lost these past years. I suffer no illusion that my little part of AU is even on Jay’s radar at the moment with so much other damage to address now that “Crash” has finally been ejected…