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Investigation Shows Potential Links Between Consulting Firm, UAB Officials, and SACS

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Your company has no website or incorporators? Here's $723,000.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

While Birmingham and Tuscaloosa are busy exchanging letters with thinly-veiled attacks, there could be something, and someone, even more pernicious in the #FreeUAB fight.

Thesis Media & Consulting LLC is, per LinkedIn, "a media planning and buying agency that allows clients to achieve greater advertising campaign results." What it also is, according to AL.com, is a company with no working website and no incorporators on the Alabama Secretary of State's office.

And since October, Thesis Media has received $723,000 from UAB as part of the school's PR efforts following president Ray Watts's decision to end football, bowling and rifle.

That's where the fun part starts. AL.com explains that W. Todd Carlisle, a lawyer with Sirote and Permutt, has set up this corporation. Carlisle is a member of the Alabama State Delegation for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, otherwise known as SACS. A UAB spokesman, AL.com goes on, denied that Carlisle benefits from the work Thesis Media does for UAB but it certainly seems like an ominous connection... especially now that governance at UAB and representation has become such a key issue.

Back to Thesis Media for a minute now. Its internet domain is "registered to one Theresa Bruno" and UAB has paid Theresa Bruno Inc. $172,500 since October as part of The Campaign for UAB. The report continues that, "Those close to the UAB situation say [Bruno] was brought in as a consultant by UAB Senior Vice President Shirley Salloway Kahn [...] to help improve Watts' image."

This isn't necessarily problematic, but the fact that Kahn and Bruno have a business relationship outside of UAB could be: they have opened Jordan Alexander, a jewelry store in Mountain Brook that has caught the eye of, notably, the First Lady. UAB employees have apparently received emails promoting this jewelry company, among other things.

Kahn explained that her business relationship and friendship with Bruno "do not affect her ability or mine to conduct our professional responsibilities appropriately and with UAB's best interest at heart."

Maybe not, but there are certainly other connections that appear to do just that.