One of the board members said each of the connections can be explained and none had a bearing on the board’s April decision to solicit a third party medical provider.
The board is in the earliest stages of securing a contract with a medical provider for students, and a new contract for care of the university’s athletes. No votes have been cast yet.
But past professional connections between Birmingham-based Lemak Sports Medicine & Orthopedic and university officials have surfaced, leading JSU’s Faculty Senate to acknowledge them publicly.
At a recent meeting the senate passed a resolution asking board members to reveal conflicts of interest between themselves and the medical companies.
Board member Randy Jones and Matthew Lemak, CEO of Lemak Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, were business partners. Their Albertville-based company, Lemak Jones Insurance Agency began in 2005 and was dissolved in March of this year, just weeks before the board decided to seek proposals.
Jones said he’s known the Lemaks for more than a decade but that his relationship with them did not influence his decision to support the effort to recruit more health care providers. Instead, Jones said he was motivated by his concerns for JSU students.
“There is nothing to hide there, whatsoever,” Jones said. “I am concerned about the quality of care and what is the best for JSU.”
Jones also said that he had already disclosed the information about his relationship to the Lemaks to university officials. He added that he also served on a bank board with Dr. James Andrews, founder of Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center, which has held the contract to care for JSU athletes since 1989.
Andrews and Lemak shared a practice for years, and dissolved their professional relationship several years ago. Their orthopedic groups are two of six making proposals for a contract to provide student health care on campus.
The other companies that have submitted proposals are Trinity Medical Center; Regional Medical Center, Riverview Medical Center in Gadsden; Stringfellow Memorial Hospital; the Birmingham-based Andrews Sports Medicine-St. Vincent's Hospital-Champion Sports Medicine; and Health Professionals, of Peoria, Ill.
A review of campaign finance reports revealed that in 2010 two members of the Lemak family donated to the political campaign of JSU trustee Jim Folsom Jr. a former governor and lieutenant governor of Alabama. According to the records, Matthew Lemak and his father Dr. Lawrence Lemak, founder of Lemak Sports Medicine, each gave $250 to Folsom’s campaign for lieutenant governor in December of 2010.
Attempts to reach Folsom for comment were not successful due to a poor phone connection, but Matthew Lemak said he did not remember making the contribution, stating that he and his father make contributions to several political campaigns. Lemak added that neither he nor his father have a close personal relationship with Folsom.
“I couldn’t tell you who we donated to, honestly,” Matthew Lemak said.
Head football coach Jack Crowe is quoted on Lemak’s website supporting the physician’s work.
Crowe’s quote states, “Dr. Lemak has been providing excellent care of athletes for more than 30 years.”
Crowe said he has a relationship with both doctors that dates back to a time when the pair were partners and were serving on the Board of American Sports Medicine Institute, an organization Crowe directed before coming to Jacksonville State.
Such close connections to companies competing for contracts can be cause for concern for public agencies like JSU, said Joe Adams, a research coordinator for the Public Affairs Resource Council of Alabama, whose aim it is to improve governments in Alabama.
“The appearance of unethical behavior can pose a problem,” Adams said.
A committee of the board members will meet to review the proposals in Montgomery Thursday. If the members support one of the proposals over the current system, the matter could come up for a vote at the board’s quarterly meeting in July.
Star staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544.