The Florida State University Board of Trustees meeting to select its next president got off to a confrontational start with the board confronting allegations by one trustee that the process possibly violated Sunshine Laws.
Trustee Craig Mateer alleged there were two different private votes taken, one choosing Alberto Pimental’s search consulting firm and the second choosing the top three candidates. He also alleged the rules for the selection process were changed in mid-stream, specifically that originally the candidates were to be reduced to a “handful” of candidates who would participate in the campus forums and it was changed to “three or no more than four” candidates. He alleged that the number of candidates was then changed to just three, essentially making it impossible for a fourth candidate to be included. He inferred this was done to prevent certain candidates from inclusion in the final selection.
The Board of Trustees’ General Counsel Carolyn Egan pointed to meeting minutes which showed during an April 26 search committee meeting, it was determined three or four candidates would advance to the candidate forums. She pointed out this procedure was documented prior to any candidates coming forward. She said there were no Sunshine Law violations when the consultant talked to search members individually on May 15, all votes were public and that an independent national law firm came to the same conclusions.
Egan said all nine candidates were debated vigorously and that Florida Education Commissioner and one of the original FSU presidential candidates, Richard Corcoran, for instance, was mentioned over 30 times during the May 15 meeting. She said Mateer had many opportunities to advocate for Corcoran and that he took advantage of those opportunities, motioning at least three different times for Corcoran’s consideration as a finalist without effect.
Trustee Nastassia Janvier said the number of finalist was reduced to three, instead of four, because there was “not enough momentum to carry more than three candidates.”
Florida State Board of Governor’s member Eric Silagy said Mateer’s accusations were “simply untrue. This was not a backroom deal. This was open and transparent.”
Silagy took his statement on the presidential searches openness even further saying that Florida’s Sunshine Laws actually make the process much more difficult because many candidates won’t apply knowing their identity will be public record which could endanger their current employment.
He said it was “no small feat” that the committee was able to find the quality candidates it found for the position.