Monday, January 02, 2017

Brown proudly touted support for Mangum during scandal-plagued, losing reelection bid

Back when Elmira Mangum was struggling to save her presidency between late 2015 and fall 2016, the FAMU alumni state lawmakers who had once been her among her most vocal supporters stopped publicly defending her.

The only FAMU graduate in a high-profile elected office who was willing to proudly stand by Mangum was U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown.

Brown actually seemed to think that her support of Mangum would help her during her scandal-plagued reelection bid in the Fifth Congressional District of Florida. The incumbent representative faced an uphill battle for the Democratic nomination after Alfred “Al” Lawson, a FAMU alumnus, challenged her in the newly redrawn district.  

In the primary, Brown went on the offensive against Lawson in what looked like an attempt to shift attention from her legal troubles. On July 8, 2016, Brown and her chief of staff were charged in a 24-count federal indictment with participating in a conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, multiple counts of mail and wire fraud, concealing material facts on required financial disclosure forms, theft of government property, obstruction of the due administration of the internal revenue laws, and filing false tax returns.

A tweet by Associated Press reporter Gary Fineout on August 18, 2016 said “@RepCorrineBrown points out she supports @FAMU_1887 @RattlerinChief – veiled shot at Lawson’s brother - who has clashed with her?”

Al Lawson and his brother, Kelvin Lawson, a member of the FAMU Board of Trustees since 2011, both clashed with Mangum.

Back in July of 2015, FAMU lost budget authority for the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering (COE) after 28 years. Mangum supported the legislative changes that led to this.

The next month, Al Lawson told a reporter that he had offered his help to Mangum a number of times but she wasn’t interested in hearing what he had to say. Lawson served in the Florida Legislature from 1982 to 2011.

The News Service of Florida report stated that “Lawson said Mangum doesn't trust anyone.”

“I told her I wanted her to be successful,” Lawson said in a quote in the article. “I've been around for a long time, and I could keep her from running into roadblocks. … I was not trying to be hired or anything. I did that on three different occasions, and it did not work out.”

At a July 21 FAMU BOT committee meeting, Mangum tried to downplay the seriousness of the loss of control for 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 Kelvin Lawson took her to task on that claim. He understood that his brother and former state Sen. Carrie Meek made sure that FAMU got control of the budget in 1987 by working together to move the annual appropriation for the COE into the FAMU general revenue line that year. 20 years later Lawson led the way in stopping a 2007 legislative plan to move the COE budget control from FAMU to FSU.

On October 22, 2015, Kelvin Lawson supported a motion to fire Mangum “without cause” and with “no confidence.” He said that the harm done to FAMU in the COE program due in part to Mangum’s actions was one of the reasons for his decision.

“We’ve had ongoing issues with this administration whether it be the alumni, students, board of trustees or board of governors—largely around the Engineering School as well. So I feel like we’re at this point given the multitude of issues, in addition to the financial improprieties,” Kelvin Lawson told WFSU.

The motion narrowly failed with a 6-6 vote.

Kelvin Lawson also cited the COE changes that Mangum made without BOT as problems in both of his annual evaluations of her.

Brown was a member of the Florida House of Representatives in 1987 when FAMU got budget authority for the COE in the appropriations bill. She should have also spoken out against Mangum’s claim that FAMU never had control of that money. But Brown chose to ignore the issue and indirectly attack Kelvin Lawson as he was battling to reverse the changes that helped FSU finally put an end to 28 years of FAMU budget control at the COE.

FAMU is better off now that Brown’s Congressional career is over. It was time for her to leave and let a real Rattler represent the university in the new District 5.

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