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News Clips 04/19/2013
Florida Polytechnic Board Members 'In Limbo'
Source: Lakeland Ledger, 04/19/13
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By Mary Toothman
The chair of Florida Polytechnic University said Thursday he wants clear answers on the status of board members if they are not confirmed by the Legislature this session.
"I want something in writing. I don't want to guess," said Rob Gidel. He is one of 11 people who make up Florida Poly's first board, and they have learned they are unlikely to be confirmed.
"My issue is not whether we are legitimate or not. My specific concern is the authorization of money," he said.
In particular, Gidel said he is concerned about signing off on expenses for the ongoing construction of the flagship building in eastern Lakeland. He talked about the status of the board during a Thursday morning committee meeting conference call.
The Associated Press reported this week that the Senate decided not to confirm any of Florida Poly's board members. Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said the decision was made because the fate of the new university is "in flux."
Gidel said that while it might be common for board members to not be confirmed by the Legislature, it's another thing when an entire board fails to be confirmed. "It is unprecedented," he said. "We are all kind of in limbo — that's what concerns me."
Last year, the State University System Board of Governors appointees who had not been confirmed for other university boards were immediately reappointed, Parker said. Last year, she was on the BOG. She resigned the volunteer post to take on the interim position of chief operating officer at Florida Poly.
"I just don't want to be illegitimate," Gidel said.
All indications are that the board would be able to function as usual until reappointment. But Gidel said he wants it to be spelled out.
"I know you don't like the way I think, but what I am assuming is that we are not being confirmed. Hope doesn't work here. I want to know. Are our appointments officially sunsetted at the close of this session?"
University boards are made up of members who have been appointed by the State University System Board of Governors and the governor of the state. In the case of Florida Poly's board, Gov. Rick Scott made a number of the appointments, pending confirmation by the Legislature. If board members are not confirmed, they may serve out their terms if it's the first time confirmation has been denied.
Within 45 days of the end of the legislative session, they must be reappointed by the BOG or the governor. During the next session, if they are confirmed, the issue is resolved. If not, they are no longer able to serve on the board.
It's not the only area of uncertainty for the polytechnic. University officials are facing an unknown in terms of the school's annual budget allocation. The expected $22.4 million is up in the air; lawmakers in the House and Senate ultimately will decide how much money — if any — the polytechnic will get.
Parker said she will keep board members updated on any information she obtains when she speaks with members of the House and Senate. The final determination is likely to be made when the House and Senate meet in conference.
Board members heard a report Thursday from Josh Bresler, head of finance for the university, on the pending "true up," when all the financial issues will be resolved with the University of South Florida.
When FPU was created, the Lakeland USF polytechnic campus was dissolved and the new college absorbed its budget and property. The transfer of property and funds has been extensive and detailed.
USF officials have been cooperative with documentation, access to personnel and time spent, Bresler said.
The closing and postclosing arrangement between USF and Florida Poly allows for reconciliation 180 days from transfer, or April 28. University of Florida personnel will be assisting in the audit review, and schedules still are being coordinated.