Friday, May 04, 2012

Scott might inject himself into pending civil lawsuit against FAMU



After vetoing $1.5M for FAMU’s Crestview Education Center and approving millions in budget costs that forced layoffs at the university, Gov. Rick Scott says he might inject himself an announced civil lawsuit against FAMU.

Reporter Mike Vasilinda interviewed Scott about the possibility of settling the civil lawsuit that family of Robert Champion plans to file against FAMU. Champion, a member of the Marching 100, died during a hazing incident that took place on Nov. 19 in Orlando.

Vasilinda says Scott told him that “when the time was ripe, he was willing to participate in settlement talks with Drum Major Robert Champion’s family.”

When Vaslinda brought the question to Scott, he made a comparison to the Martin Lee Anderson case. Anderson, 14-year African American boy, lost his life while in the custody of a Bay County juvenile boot camp in 2006. Video footage showed guards beating Anderson and forcing him to inhale ammonia before he died. A medical examiner stated that Anderson's cause of death was suffocation.

The Anderson family hired Tallahassee attorney Benjamin Crump and sued the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice for $40M. Since that department is managed by the governor, Gov. Charlie Crist negotiated an out-of-court settlement of $5M. The Florida Legislature approved a claims bill for that amount of money.

The legal authority in civil lawsuits against Florida public universities is different. Those cases are handled by legal counsels hired by each Board of Trustees. The governor is not the managing official for any public university and is not in charge of negotiating settlements with plaintiffs.

Scott’s statement about inserting himself into settlement talks concerning a pending civil lawsuit against FAMU represents another one of his attempts to gain power over the university's day-to-day affairs. He previously attempted to bully FAMU trustees into suspending the university president. He also pressured the university to postpone a planned anti-hazing task force in December and attacked the integrity of another Anti-Hazing Committee until five members resigned.

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