Sly moves unmasked in UF search for president

Kent and Linda Fuchs. Photo: Andres Leiva, The Independent Florida Alligator

The Gainesville Sun by Cindy Swirko

August 4, 2017

Chartered jets between Gainesville and Orlando, hotel reservations made under false names and billed to companies affiliated with a University of Florida trustee — all were part of the search that led to the hiring of Kent Fuchs as UF president.

Documents relating to the 2014 search, released this week as part of an ongoing public records request, show a process largely kept out of the public eye.

Among the details found in the records:

• An Orlando hotel room for Fuchs, who at the time was provost of Cornell University, was booked for “Kent Peterson.”

• Another candidate who was brought to Orlando, State University of New York at Stony Brook President Stanley Green, was booked in a hotel under the name “Stan Smith.”

• Reservations for hotels and chartered jets weren’t made by UF but instead by various companies for which trustee Steven Scott is listed as manager or agent, including Scott Holdings LLC, NJGV Holdings LLC and Blue Coconut Holdings LLC.

• Melissa Orth, UF senior director of government relations, used a hotmail email account rather than a UF account — which could have subject to state open records law — when coordinating travel and hotels. During a presidential search in 2012, Orth asked a hotel representative to stop using her UF account and instead use the hotmail address. She requested that references to UF be removed from forms.

• A meeting with Fuchs in Orlando was referred to by the hotel and UF officials as the “Alpha One” meeting with no mention of UF.

UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said all of the costs were paid with private donations. She added that top-tier prospects for a university presidency typically want privacy.

“During this outreach phase, public universities must balance the obligations of state law even while being sensitive to the privacy of individuals trying to make a major career decision about whether to become a candidate for president,” Sikes wrote in an email. “In fact, sitting presidents and other high-level administrators often request confidentiality to not imperil their standing at their current institution.”

University presidential searches can become controversial because secrecy is not uncommon. [READ MORE]

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