RICO,  Southern Company

Was Matrix Hired by Auburn University to Investigate and Smear Coach Bryan Harsin and his Family?

Was Matrix hired by Auburn to find cause to fire Coach Harsin and save $18 million?

Investigative journalist Rob Holbert of Lagniappe has broken the hottest story in Alabama this week: Auburn University is paying diminutive political consultant “Sloppy Joe” Perkins, the Oompa Loompa of Alabama Politics, over $1 million a year in consulting fees through the controversial firm he founded, Matrix, LLC.

Matrix, LLC and Perkins have been accused of allegedly orchestrating smear campaigns, allegedly conducting inappropriate surveillance efforts, allegedly paying off envelope journalists, and allegedly laundering money and pay-offs through a network of not-for-profit entities.

Holbert writes:

When Auburn University’s McCrary Institute signed a $67,700-a-month retainer with Matrix, LLC late last year, it pushed the state-funded university’s annual payments to the controversial consulting firm to more than $1 million a year.

But what exactly Matrix has been doing for Auburn since late 2019 isn’t clear, and the university has ignored multiple requests to divulge who actually made the decision to hire Joe Perkins’ firm.

According to public expenditure records, Auburn began paying a $15,000-a-month retainer to Matrix in November of 2019, giving the firm a base of $180,000 annually that was bumped up to $220,000 for 2024, according to a contract addendum. The new McCrary contract added at the beginning of last October clocks in at $812,400 a year, bringing base contracted payments from Auburn to Matrix for FY 2024 to $1,032,400.

More interesting in the story is the reaction by “Sloppy Joe” Perkins who appeared to be angry and unhinged by the questioning of the contract, and outlined what looks like a delusional and make-believe conspiracy.

Holbert writes:

When contacted for this story and asked questions about who at Auburn hired his firm, examples of specific work Matrix had done for the university and also about a defamation lawsuit filed against his firm on March 15, Perkins responded angrily with accusations Lagniappe’s reporter is a “ghost writer” who can be paid off to bury stories. Perkins also warned he had “evidence” a so-called “political operative” had contacted the subject of a Lagniappe investigation three years ago and promised that for payment they could make the story go away.

“I am aware of the questions you have been asking clients of my firm and I regard those questions as malicious accusations designed to interfere with the contractual relationships of my firm,” Perkins wrote in an email. “You say you are a ‘ghost writer’ and as such you get paid for writing words for someone else based on their willingness to pay you. A political operative in Alabama, in 2021, contacted the target of malicious articles you were writing and informed that person that for a price they could make your articles stop. There is evidence of this communication.”

Asked to provide the evidence of such a communication, Perkins did not respond. Asked whether Perkins’ hostile and threatening response to simple questions about his involvement with Auburn is what the university expects from a highly paid media specialist,  [an Auburn University spokesman] said she would look into the matter but did not follow up prior to publication of this article.

So who at Auburn hired Matrix? Who recommended the firm?


Two members of the Auburn University Board of Trustees are closely tied to Perkins: Zeke Smith and Quentin P. Riggins. Zeke Smith served as Executive Vice President of External Affairs at Alabama Power, but was ousted last year.

Riggins is the Senior Vice President of Government and Corporate Affairs at Alabama Power.


Zeke Smith allegedly approved over $318,000 in expenditures through Matrix in Southern Company’s campaign of fear and terror against us, the CDLU, and the Newsome and Forbes families during the summer of 2020.

Riggins, too, allegedly was approving work orders and contracts in the same campaign of fear and intimidation, funneling millions to Matrix and related entities.

Alabama Power was paying Matrix and related entities tied to Perkins over $2.5 million a year in secret contracts without the need of invoicing, according to news reports in late 2021.

Zeke Smith’s name on the Matrix expenditure report

The controversy and exposure surrounding the secret million-dollar contracts allegedly caused Perkins to explode in anger, and his lawyers quickly dispatched letters to media demanding that the contracts be removed because they were “trade secrets.”

His lawyers foolishly and inadvertently confirmed the contracts were real and authentic.

So what has Matrix really been doing for Auburn since 2019? Specifically what?

An Auburn spokesperson gave Lagniappe a paragraph of worthless, vague, generic, and canned fluff.

Although Sloppy Joe appears to fly off the handle when his ego is bruised, the reality is Matrix has allegedly been involved in some dark and unsavory misconduct.

Megan Rondini

Matrix and Perkins have been accused of allegedly targeting the family of a rape victim, Meagan Rondini, who committed suicide after law enforcement and others allegedly dismissed or ignored her accusations against the son of a prominent family in Alabama.

The suicide garnered national headlines in 2017 when Buzzfeed wrote a detailed and lengthy story of the young woman’s plight and eventual suicide.

In August of 2022, court filings in the Matrix Meltdown between Matrix founder “Sloppy Joe” Perkins and his once-protégé Jeff Pitts exposed Perkins’ alleged misconduct.

“Defendant Pitts was compelled to resign because of Perkins’ inappropriate and unethical business practices, including, but not limited to, initiating and directing the creation of an explicit video used in an attempt to intimidate the family of Megan Rondini, a rape victim who had committed suicide, to settle a civil claim….”.

Targeting the Rondini Family. Targeting the Newsome Family. Targeting the Forbes Family.

Who else was targeted?

In February of 2022, then-Auburn football head coach Bryan Harsin was attacked viciously in a smear campaign.

ESPN reported, “Social media message boards were filled with ugly rumors about Harsin and his family and their personal lives. ‘Everything we were going through — these players, this program, the attacks on my character and my family — was bulls—,’ Harsin stated.”

As Sports Illustrated reported at the time, “Harsin’s representatives have resisted attempts by Auburn officials at settling for a price lower than the coach’s full buyout, about $18 million. This has forced Auburn into a corner: fire the coach for cause, hoping evidence for such is strong enough; pay the full buyout; or retain him.”

Was Matrix hired by Auburn to find cause to fire Coach Harsin and save $18 million?

Sport Illustrated wrote at the time, “The source tells SI the leaked information around Harsin was an ‘attack on his character,’ adding ‘there’s a contingent of people trying to make stuff seem worse than it is.'”

In July of 2022, after he was retained, Coach Harsin called the investigation “an opportunity for people to personally attack me, my family and also our program.”

Targeting the Harsin Family?

In October of 2022, Harsin was fired as head coach after a long and dismal losing streak. CBS Sports reported at the time:

“Harsin will receive $15.3 million (70% of the remaining amount on his contract) for his buyout. Half of that is due within 30 days to be followed by followed by four annual payments of the remaining balance, according to 247Sports’ Brandon Marcello.  Auburn is still paying off Malzahn’s buyout of $21.5 million as it embarks on yet another coaching search.”

Why in heaven’s name is Auburn paying millions to Matrix and Sloppy Joe? And when will Auburn University President Chris Roberts fire and terminate Matrix?

Will it take an NCAA investigation?


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