Monday, September 12, 2011

Committee wants to retain super-majority clauses despite Langston’s objections

Last week, Charles Langston came up empty-handed in his effort to assist Bill Jennings’ power struggle against the FAMU president.

The Board of Trustees Ad Hoc Committee on the presidential contract came to a consensus that the super-majority clauses in President James H. Ammons’ employment agreement should stay put, despite Langston’s objections. The super-majority clause in Section 11.1 requires a two-thirds vote of the board in order to terminate the contract with cause.

The committee’s decision followed a review of other presidential contracts in the State University System of Florida (SUS), which revealed that Ammons is not the only chief executive with super-majority clauses. For example, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) President Mary Jane Saunders’ contract requires a super-majority vote for termination. Former FAU President Frank Brogan, the current SUS chancellor, also had super-majority clauses in his contract with the university.

Sections 12.0 and 13.0 in Saunders’ contract, just like in Brogan’s former contract, require “a vote of two thirds (2/3) of the Board of Trustees” in order to terminate the agreement with or without cause.

Back at the August 4, 2011 FAMU BOT meeting, Jennings ally Karl E. White said he wanted the Ad Hoc Committee to work to remove Ammons’ super-majority clause. He justified his position by saying that it was his understanding that Ammons was the only SUS president with such a clause.

Now, it is time to ask tough questions about White’s actions. Is he simply a person who talks without making any attempt to educate himself about basic facts? If so, he joins the tradition of ignorance displayed by individuals like former Trustee Jesse Tyson who did not understand that FAMU is accredited and that there is no level of accreditation higher than the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Or, did White actually know that Ammons is not the only SUS president with a super-majority clause and simply assumed his fellow trustees would not be smart enough to check that information on their own?

During the Ad Hoc Committee meeting, the members also recommended changing the language in Ammons’ bonus clause. The contract currently guarantees Ammons a bonus of 25 to 35 percent per year. The committee unanimously agreed that this should be changed to a performance-based incentive of zero to 35 percent per year. Ammons has already expressed a willingness to modify this portion of his employment agreement.

Langston used the bonus discussion as an opportunity to launch one last desperate attack against Ammons’ super-majority clauses.

“I’m not totally comfortable with the super-majority,” Langston said. “I’m really reluctant to enrich this part of the contract [the bonus] and leave that part of it [the super-majority clause] alone.”

The rest of the committee members acknowledged Langston’s disagreement but refused to go along with him.

The Ad Hoc Committee on the presidential contract is chaired by Kelvin Lawson and also includes Marjorie Turnbull, Rufus Montgomery, and Langston. Lawson said he wants the committee to finalize its recommendations in a week or so and then have a face-to-face meeting with Ammons before the end of September. He indicated a desire to have the contractual revision process' committee work done no later than early October.

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