Thursday, September 22, 2016

Lee built social media following among gullible, Rattlers-in-name-only

John Michael Lee is one of the biggest defenders of Elmira Mangum, the FAMU president who John Thrasher used to help him put an end to 28 years of FAMU budget control at FAMU-FSU College of Engineering (COE). But now Lee is asking to be taken seriously in his claim that the powers-that-be are “using” the current FAMU administration.

The saddest thing is that Lee has a small, but loud social media following of gullible Rattlers-in-name-only who believe him.

On Monday, FAMU Interim President Larry Robinson terminated Lee’s contract as a special assistant in the Office of the President. Lee responded by putting his termination letter on display in an unofficial FAMU Alumni Facebook page and then posting rants with conspiracy theories about recent events at the university. 

“The people implementing the decisions may be Black (Robison [sic], Lawson, Dortch, Greg Clark), but the people using them as political pawns are White (Levine, Scott, etc.),” Lee wrote in one post.

Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Board of Governors (BOG) member Alan Levine definitely aren’t friends of FAMU, but they weren’t the ones who pushed for FAMU to lose budget control at the COE. Thrasher drove that goal and Mangum’s assistance was one of the keys to his success. 

Mangum started out as a strong advocate for FAMU in the COE. She led the fight against a 2014 proposal by Thrasher, then a state senator, to split the college in a way that would have harmed FAMU. She even had a legislative language and state funded study on her side.

But things changed after Mangum made the poor decision to make an insulting statement about Scott in the Tallahassee Democrat shortly before he was reelected and to initiate a petty scuffle over reimbursing FAMU trustee travel to the 2015 gubernatorial Inaugural Prayer Breakfast held on campus.

Mangum, who appeared to know she was in hot water with the governor’s office, started making efforts to placate Scott’s reelection campaign chairman Thrasher, who had become president of FSU in 2014.

In February, she supported shifting the $12.9M COE appropriation from the FAMU general revenue line to a new budget entity. Mangum then went along with Thrasher in stating that a new Joint College of Engineering Governance Council would call the shots on the COE operating budget. That made it possible for the FSU representatives and BOG Chancellor Marshall Criser, III to out-vote FAMU on budget decisions.

At a July 21, 2015 FAMU Board of Trustees (BOT) committee meeting, Mangum tried to downplay the seriousness of the loss of the $12.9M COE budget by claiming that FAMU didn’t have control over that money during the years that those operating dollars were at the university. 

But former President Frederick S. Humphries came before the BOT in October 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.”

A press release by the Mangum administration had claimed that FAMU would be “gaining the responsibility of selecting the dean” of the COE as a result of the changes she backed. But that didn’t happen. The new dean was jointly appointed by Mangum and Thrasher in compliance with the selection process approved in 1987.

Those facts appear to be lost on Lee and the clueless Facebook posters who look to him as their source of FAMU information because they’re too lazy to find out what’s really happening.

Mangum showed that she was working for Thrasher’s interests, not FAMU’s interests, in the COE. That was the breaking point that sent her support among the leadership of the FAMU National Alumni Association into a decline. 

Lee and Mangum weren’t up to task of defending FAMU from Thrasher, but now FAMU finally has a new administration that is dedicated to battling attacks against the university.   

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