Saturday, November 07, 2015

Badger denies proposing door project, says Jones has “me mixed up with somebody else”

The former chairman of the FAMU Board of Trustees (BOT) refuted a university staffer’s account that credited him with proposing a controversial new front door for the President’s House.

Kendall D. Jones, the FAMU Director of Plant Operations & Maintenance, said he and two other administrators began a project to install a new front door at the residence after then-Chairman Chuck Badger suggested it.

“Chairman Badger commented that the existing door was not representative of a University President’s House and should be more presidential,” Jones wrote in an October 28 memorandum. “The project team collaborated and decided to replace the existing door with a better quality door.  As a result, the door replacement was added to the project scope of work.”

But Badger told the Tallahassee Democrat that Jones has it wrong.

“He’s got me mixed up with somebody else,” Badger said. “It wasn’t Chairman Badger making the statement regarding the door. I’m pretty sure (the comment) was made by another board member.”

The memorandum Jones did include a warning that his description of what happened shouldn’t be considered “exact.”

“This statement is based upon my memory of events and should not be inferred as exact accounts of conversations, but is offered to the best of my recollection,” Jones said in the memorandum.

Jones also said that he gave Spurgeon McWilliams, who chaired the BOT’s Facilities Planning Committee at the time, a walk-through of the President’s House on March 13, 2014 and explained the progress of the upgrade project for the residence. Jones added that: “During this walk-through the scope of work was thoroughly explained.”

The front door project cost $11,519 and had an invoice date of September 23, 2014.

At an emergency BOT conference call on Oct. 22, FAMU General Counsel Avery McKnight said the front door was among four projects above $10,000 that each took place at the President’s House after the start date of President Elmira Mangum’s contract. He said they weren't presented to the BOT for its approval as required by her contract.

Mangum said she didn’t request or authorize any renovations for the President’s House. She later narrowly survived two unsuccessful motions to terminate her employment.

McWilliams, who voted in favor of both motions for termination, resigned from the BOT on October 28. That was the same day as the date of memorandum by Jones. But McWilliams denied that his resignation had anything to do with Jones’ statement about the March 13, 2014 walk-through of the President’s House.

“Any intention to connect the walk-thru to my resignation is absolutely false,” McWilliams told the Florida Times-Union. “It is a far stretch for even a casual reader and patently untrue. Doing a walk through to asses construction progress has zero correlation to approving expenditures over $10,000 -- which is a Board duty -- and this implication is totally false. The walk-through and my resigning have zero connection.”

The Times-Union asked McWilliams: “Why resign immediately versus finishing the remaining six months on his term or at least waiting until a replacement is named?”

McWilliams answered that: “After the attempt at releasing the President failed, Dr. McWilliams determined that, since he had finished two terms and could not be re-appointed, the final months of the year would not yield the ability for him as a Trustee member to make what he felt were important changes.”

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