Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Report findings don’t match Warren’s 2015 explanation for President’s House renovations

Back in October, FAMU Trustee Cleve Warren said he didn’t think the capital improvements that had taken place at the on-campus President’s House after the start date of President Elmira Mangum’s contract were ones that required approval by the Board of Trustees (BOT). But an independent report by Grant Thornton LLP said that a $71,529 garage project that began in June 2014 should have been presented to the BOT for a vote before it was started.

The BOT scheduled an emergency meeting to discuss the garage and other renovations at President’s House on October 22, 2015. Joe Bakker, who had retired as the interim chief financial officer (CFO), wrote then-CFO Dale Cassidy a letter about the issue two days before that meeting. Bakker said the garage didn’t need BOT approval because it was paid out of Minor Projects Fund dollars.

“Expenditures from this fund do not require the approval of the board of trustees unless a contract in excess of $1 million is to be executed,” Bakker said in the letter. “With respect to the garage, it was constructed within the context and contract of the renovations to the President’s House and was not associated with the refurbishments, etc., referred to in the President's contract.”

Warren gave a similar explanation to the BOT at the emergency meeting on October 22.

“I recall a contract with a minor contractor to do work up to a million dollars; that can be initiated by the Facilities Department and executed without having it come back to the Board, and it's my understanding that the work on the house was done under that one-million-dollar latitude,” he said.

He then discussed the part of Mangum’s employment agreement that said capital improvements to the President’s House above $10,000 need BOT approval.

“I view the $10,000 inclusion in the contract for her that she would have to come to us for permission, on us anticipating that there might be things about it that she would want done, and where those things were $10,000 or more, she would have to bring them back to us. I don’t think that Dr. Mangum -- to my knowledge, anyways -- has asked for or initiated anything to be done to the house that would require her to bring it to us for Board approval.”

Warren went on to criticize then-General Counsel Avery McKnight for telling the BOT that the capital improvements at the President’s House that took place after the start date of Mangum’s contract should have been brought to the BOT for approval.

“I’m appalled, quite frankly, by his counsel to us that Dr. Mangum would be obligated or be responsible for an activity of the University that preceded her arrival,” Warren said.

McKnight continued to stand by his statement and said “there was affirmative duty to report any projected cost over $10,000.” He called attention to purchase order for the garage that was made on June 19, 2014 after the start date of the presidential contract on April 1, 2014.

Student Body President Tonnette S. Graham then asked McKnight if the president’s contract had been violated.

“Was she in violation of her contract? Yes or no?” Graham asked him.

“Based upon the documents as reflected, yes, it appears so,” McKnight said.

Mangum narrowly survived two attempts to fire her on that day. She later fired McKnight.

The independent report by Grant Thornton LLP that was requested by the BOT stated that “the University did not comply with the provisions of the President’s Employment Agreement regarding the renovations to the University owned residence” for the garage project. It called the problem “Material noncompliance with University owned residence renovation regulations.”

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