Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Questions remain about who proposed garage project at FAMU President’s House

FAMU released the results of an independent report on the controversial addition of a garage to the on-campus President’s House on Saturday. But questions still remain about who proposed the $71,529 project.

An independent report by Grant Thornton, LLP report states that:  “The results of a walkthrough meeting in March 2014 between the University’s Interim VP of Administration and Financial Services and the BOT Facilities Planning Chairman was not formally documented. At that walkthrough meeting, the BOT member recommended that a garage be added to the University owned residence. This meeting was subsequently documented by the University’s Director of Physical Plant in October 2015; however, no formal BOT approval of this project was documented.”

Kendall D. Jones, the FAMU Director of Plant Operations & Maintenance, said in an October 28, 2015 memo that Board of Trustees (BOT) that Facilities Planning Chairman Spurgeon McWilliams participated in the walkthrough on March 13, 2014. But Jones stated that then-BOT Chairman Chuck Badger was the one who proposed a new garage.

The memo by Jones said that: “The project team developed a project scope of work to construct a garage after former Chairman Chuck Badger expressed concerns for the safety of the President by not providing a garage to park in as a single female living alone. Based upon these concerns and the collaboration of the University’s project team (Joseph Bakker, Kendall Jones, and Chuks Onwunli), we decided to move forward with constructing a garage.”

But a November 6, 2015 Florida Times-Union story stated that: “Badger spoke to the Times-Union and denied signing off on the garage or the door...Badger said he doesn't recall being told Mangum asked for any of the renovations.”

McWilliams, who resigned from the BOT in October, also denied that he proposed garage when he was asked by the Tallahassee Democrat.

“Those people have not ever talked to me,” he told the Democrat in reference to Grant Thornton. “If they are going to suggest that, at least talk to me to verify that. You can’t build a garage on just a suggestion. That’s why I got out of there. I didn’t want to be associated with this.”

At an emergency BOT conference call on October 22, McWilliams said that the garage project wasn’t approved by the Facilities Planning Committee. He added that if the garage project had been presented to his committee, the committee would have probably requested that it be an attached garage instead of detached garage for the purpose of safety.

“We're talking about the garage, which is a separate entity,” he said. “It should have gone through our committee. The facilities people should have presented it. For example, had that been presented as a safety issue for the President, it probably wouldn't be a freestanding facility.  It probably would be attached in some way to the main dwelling to allow for safety and so forth.  So it probably been presented to the Board as such, and it probably would have been approved as such.” 

McWilliams went on to say that he didn’t know how the garage project ended up being started without the approval of the Facilities Planning Committee.

“There's no way to go out and build a garage  on state ground without any going through any kind of  process -- going through the Board or going to the  committee or doing anything -- and that's what looks  what's happened here,” McWilliams said. “How it happened, I don't know, but it certainly didn't go through my committee and it hasn't been presented to the Board.” 

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