The News-Press by Thyrie Bland
March 31, 2017
A state investigation into the Florida Gulf Coast University board found that two trustees met with the school’s president and provost in violation of the state’s Sunshine Law.
The investigation also found the board violated a state regulation when it elected the school’s faculty senate president as the Board of Trustees’ vice president.
Eight allegations were made against board members related to retaliation, harassment, and violations of law, school policy and Florida Board of Governor regulations.
Only two allegations — the Sunshine Law violation and the improper election of vice president — were sustained.
The allegations were first reported to the FGCU audit office. The person who made the allegations was deemed a whistle-blower, and the investigation was turned over to the Board of Governors’ inspector general office. State law requires that the names of whistle-blowers be kept confidential.
Of the eight allegations, five were not sustained. They were:
►A harassment claim
►Board members trying to influence employment decisions
►Trustees not using the proper channels to communicate to employees in regard to the school’s strategic plan
►A board member unilaterally creating a task force
►An allegation that trustees recommending degree programs related to their expertise or employment was a conflict of interest and shortcut the degree evaluation process
The inspector general office did not investigate one allegation.
The Florida Commission on Human Relations investigates state employee whistle-blower retaliation. A commission spokesman could not be reached Friday.
The inspector general’s office released an 81-page report this week detailing the allegations and the office’s finding. The report was discussed at a Board of Governors meeting.
“They spent hundreds of hours of time and resources on looking into each one of those eight allegations and those other issues as they identified,” said Dudley Goodlette, the FGCU board chairman. “And they did a very, very thorough, thoughtful job of it in my judgment. And frankly, the two areas that they identified as being sustained, they were right.”
The report said Goodlette and Shawn Felton violated the Sunshine Law when they met July 7 with FGCU President Wilson Bradshaw and Provost Ron Toll.
State law prohibits Goodlette and Felton from talking to each other about matters that could come before the FGCU board outside of a public meeting.
The investigation: Read the 81-page report
The inspector general’s office referred the violation to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The FDLE declined to investigate, according to the report.
The meeting’s purpose was to address some concerns Bradshaw had regarding communications between trustees and school administrators, faculty, and staff.
Goodlette, Felton, Bradshaw and Toll also talked about FGCU’s strategic planning process.
“These were matters that were already before the board and that came before the Board of Trustees twice more in public meetings before the strategic plan was approved,” Inspector General Joseph Maleszewski said.
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Felton’s election as the FGCU board’s vice chair in 2016 violated a Board of Governors’ regulation.
He serves on the board as a trustee as a result of being the faculty senate’s president. The senate’s president gets an automatic seat on the board.
A state board regulation requires university boards to select their chair and vice chair from members who were appointed by the governor or the state board.
When Felton was elected vice chair, an FGCU regulation was ambiguous in regard to which of the trustees were appointed members, according to the report.
“But there was no question that it violated a Board of Governors regulation, and in addition, it was pointed out back in the fall that this was in violation,” Board of Governors member Wendy Link said. “So the board has known since the fall that this was an action that was inappropriate and in violation of our board and no action was taken to correct it.”
Felton resigned his vice chairman position earlier this week. He said he resigned because the faculty senate will elect a new president in two weeks.
Felton would not discuss the allegations in the report. [READ MORE]