Thursday, February 07, 2013

Auditor flags presidential severance agreements at FAMU, UCF

Florida Auditor David W. Martin says trustees at FAMU and the University of Central Florida (UCF) adopted presidential severance clauses that were out-of-compliance with a 2011 state law.

Section 215.425(4)(a) of the Florida Statues limits severance pay for public employees to a maximum of 20 weeks of compensation. The law went into effect on July 1, 2011.

Martin’s 2012 operational audit of UCF found that: “On July 21, 2011, the Board approved an amended employment agreement with the University President…Section 8.2 of the employment agreement provides that in the event the President is discharged without cause, the President shall be paid for the lesser of the remaining term of the contract or two years of base salary and deferred compensation. This provision is contrary to Section 215.425(4)(a), Florida Statutes, in that it allows for the President to receive severance pay that exceeds 20 weeks of salary.”

UCF President John Hitt wrote the auditor general back and responded that: “The university acknowledges the apparent conflict between the language in Section 215.425(4)(a), Florida Statutes, and Section 8.2 of the President’s employment agreement…The UCF Board of Trustees will take the appropriate action by July 2013.”

The Florida auditor general also flagged a similar issue in the severance clause from former President James H. Ammons’ contract.

Back on October 27, 2011, the FAMU Board of Trustees approved an amended employment agreement that provided for a 12 month post-presidential sabbatical in the event of Ammons’ resignation or termination without cause. Martin declared that portion of the contract to be out-of-compliance with state law.

The Orlando Sentinel wrote about Hitt’s contract controversy on Feb. 5, 2013. It followed up with an article about the audit finding concerning Ammons’ contract the next day.

Ammons submitted a 90 day notice on July 11, 2012 informing FAMU trustees of his intent to resign  effective October 11, 2012. FAMU trustees voted on July 16, 2012 to accept his resignation immediately and grant him his full sabbatical year effective July 17, 2012.

Rick Givens, the vice-president of audit and compliance at FAMU, told the Sentinel that the university is reviewing the employment agreement “to determine the appropriate course of action.”

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