Tuesday, May 24, 2016

FAMU BOT moves from chair who didn’t understand COE budget shift to one who does

The ouster of former FAMU Board of Trustees (BOT) Chairman Cleve Warren has now led to the university having an acting chair who understands what really happened with the budget authority shift at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering (COE).

Warren showed that he didn’t understand the issue back when the BOT met on July 21, 2015. He asked President Elmira Mangum if FAMU had controlled the budget for the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering (COE) before the creation of the Joint College of Engineering Governance Council in 2015. The Joint College of Engineering Governance Council started to claim that it is in charge of the $12.9M budget that year. It is setup in a way that makes it possible for the FSU representatives and Board of Governors (BOG) Chancellor Marshall Criser, III to outvote FAMU on budget decisions.

“For clarity purposes, before the creation of this joint committee, did A&M have control of the budget?” Warren asked.

“My opinion would be that the dean controlled the expenditures of the College of Engineering; FAMU kept account of them,” Mangum said.

Trustee Kelvin Lawson, a FAMU alumnus, disagreed and said that FAMU had the “responsibility for managing the budget” in the past. He added that the management responsibility wasn’t limited to executing “joint decisions.”

“I think it’s also important to have the perspective to have that there’s a lot more involved in the responsibility of the fiscal agent other than just managing the money and making joint decisions, because if it wasn’t so important, why would year after year after year, various leaders make an attempt to move the responsibility from its original home?” Lawson said.

Back in 2007, Lawson’s brother Sen. Alfred “Al” Lawson led the way in stopping a legislative plan to move the COE fiscal agent duties from FAMU to FSU. Then-FSU President T.K. Wetherell said the plan would have let FSU make the management choices for the budget.

“We’re just going to manage the money,” Wetherell said in a quote published by the Tallahassee Democrat in 2007.

Warren was the only chair the FAMU BOT has had since it was created in 2001 who wasn’t committed to making sure that the COE budget stayed at FAMU. Even Challis Lowe, who was one of the worst BOT chairs FAMU has ever had, disagreed when Interim President Castell Bryant said she had no problem with the COE fiscal agent duties being moved to FSU. Lowe supported the unanimous BOT vote to back the Lawson amendment for FAMU to continue on as the fiscal agent.  

Former FAMU President Frederick S. Humphries also came before the BOT on October 18, 2015 and said that FAMU did control the COE budget after he struck a deal with FSU President Bernie Sliger in 1987. He said that the deal gave FAMU control of the budget in exchange for him agreeing to support Innovation Park as the building site for the COE. Humphries told the BOT that the deal was made final by the 1987 “Memorandum of Agreement.”

Kelvin Lawson followed up on the comments Humphries made and said that the COE budget shift was a problem that Mangum needed to work to fix.

“I would like to see us make an active pitch to regain budget authority for the College of Engineering,” Lawson said at the meeting.

“I would ask that the administration take that as a ‘To Do’ moving forward,” he added.

Mangum hasn’t reported any progress in addressing the COE budget shift problem since that time.

Lawson became acting chair of the BOT after the BOG declined to reappoint Warren on May 12.

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