Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Givens reported “potential interference” with his work to BOT following email from Cassidy

Back on Oct. 21, FAMU Vice-President for Audit and Compliance Rick Givens wrote the chairman of the Board of Trustees (BOT) to report “potential interference with the work of Audit & Compliance.”

POLITICO Florida obtained the series of emails that ended with that statement by Givens.

On Oct. 19, BOT Vice-Chairman Kelvin Lawson asked Givens to provide “the details of the home improvements of the president’s house” and “the final true cost of the garage.”

The request followed an Oct. 1 memorandum that Givens received from the Florida auditor general’s office. The office asked him to look into whether two purchase orders for renovations at the President’s House had received BOT approval. The first was issued February 13, 2014 and was for $300,209. The second, which was for the garage project, was issued on June 19, 2014 and was for $71,529.

Givens told Cheryl Buchanan, an audit coordinator for the Florida auditor general, that he hadn’t found any records that showed the BOT had given its approval for the either of the purchase orders or been informed about the garage project.

The employment agreement between Mangum and the BOT states that: “Dr. Mangum shall obtain prior approval from the Board (or its designee) for any capital improvements or repairs to the home or its grounds which have a project cost over $10,000.”

Givens answered Lawson’s request on Oct. 19 with a document that summarized what had been spent to renovate the President’s House between Feb. 2014 and Jan. 2015.

Two days later, FAMU Vice-President for Finance and Administration Dale Cassidy wrote Givens an email with the subject line: “FW: Repairs to President’s House.”

Cassidy said that: “At this moment, I have not received copies of these file documents…and insist that they be sent to me as well as to the Board, together with any summarization and/or commentary that you may supply to the Board. I believe your obligations to serve in the best interests of the University require that copies be provided to appropriate University officials in addition to the Board.”

Givens forwarded the message from Cassidy that same day to then-BOT Chairman Rufus Montgomery with a statement that said: “Per your request to notify you of potential interference with the work of Audit & Compliance, I am forwarding the e-mail string to you.”

Rufus responded by telling Givens: “Please notify me immediately if you experience any additional interference in the performance of your duties as vice-president for Audit and Compliance.” He copied Lawson, General Counsel Avery McKnight, and Trustees Nicole Washington and Torey Alston.

The then-chairman went on tell the full BOT at an emergency conference call on Oct. 22 that he had asked Givens to let him know about any possible interference in his efforts to carry out the duties of his office.

“I directed the vice president of audit and compliance in my supervisory capacity to notify me immediately…if there was any interference that could or would prohibit him from conducting his work,” Rufus told the other trustees. “Yesterday, I received such a response and a complaint from the vice president for audit and compliance. I do believe it would better serve the institution if we were to have an outside independent voice given that the vice president of audit and compliance has already experienced what he perceived as interference.”

President Elmira Mangum fired back by saying: “There has never been any attempt to interfere with anything Vice-President Givens was doing. It is wholly untrue that I tried to interfere with anything he is doing with regard to this particular issue.”

Rufus responded by telling Mangum that “I don’t believe that there was a direct allegation toward you, but I can substantiate that there was a claim of potential interference from a member of the senior leadership team.”

The BOT voted 9-0 during the conference to hire an external auditor to conduct a report on the renovation projects at the President’s House and bonuses that were awarded to members of Mangum’s staff. 

Back at a BOT committee meeting on Aug. 5, Rufus claimed that Cassidy had approached him with a potential deal to replace McKnight in exchange for the trustees ending their discussion on a set of issues related to the general counsel’s office.

Mangum refused to give a “yes or no” answer when trustees asked her if she had any knowledge about that alleged call.
Note: This post contains corrections made on January 5, 2016.

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