Charges of mismanagement engulf Poly
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 26, 2012 02:04
LAKELAND — After a whirlwind Wednesday that revealed USF Polytechnic had taken disciplinary action against two of its administrators for financial mismanagement, the Lakeland branch campus is taking a closer look at its spending as it splits from the USF System.
Reports broke that Regional Vice Chancellor Alice Murray and Executive Director of Finance and Administration Josh Bresler were placed on administrative leave and recommended for dismissal following an ongoing internal investigation of Polytechnic’s finances, according to an April 13 Polytechnic interim report. Investigation into former Polytechnic Chancellor Marshall Goodman is also ongoing.
The report states there was consensus among the 15 USF Polytechnic staff and faculty interviewed that Goodman instructed employees to “get it done,” according to one source interviewed by the University Audit Committee (UAC), and the report stated “there was a fear of questioning his authority.” All employees had, at times, questioned budget expenditures, yet were instructed to “do it” anyway, according to a source interviewed, and there was a “shared belief that anyone who disagreed … would be fired or transferred out of their current position.”
Concerns of nepotism were also raised by those interviewed because of hires of Goodman’s sons Robert Goodman and Steven Goodman, who was hired by a consultant at USF Polytechnic.
“Statements also indicate that search processes were designed to result in the hiring of Dr. Goodman’s preferred candidate, even if he (or) she was not the preferred candidate of those who would be supervising the candidate,” the report states.
Goodman could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
Polytechnic Interim Chancellor David Touchton said in an interview with The Oracle that he preferred not to speak to Goodman’s function as an administrator, but said he knew Goodman personally, sharing many dinners with him and his wife.
“I think his best feature was he was a visionary and I think his worst feature was he was a visionary,” he said. “I think a lot of time visionaries don’t want to be involved with the details of the day-to-day management. I’ve been told the staff played a game, ‘Where in the world is Marshall today?’ because he
traveled so much.”
The UAC recommended continuing its investigation of Goodman, who was displaced as regional chancellor in December by USF President Judy Genshaft, but currently retains his $262,431.50 salary. Bresler and Murray, who could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday, were placed on administrative leave by the university following the UAC’s recommendation of their dismissal.
“Bresler knowingly created
the invoice progress that resulted in violation of USF policy,” the report states. “He continued to pay invoices through carry forward funds in violation of statue.”
The report stated Murray was disciplined because of spending unauthorized funds on beverage machines and authorizing a $400,000 expenditure for a “media wall” without following a USF System policy for technology review, even though she had participated on a committee that established that policy.
While not a subject of review, the UAC revealed that Murray participated in an effort to pay for life-sized “Star Wars” and other sci-fi figurines with USF Foundation funds without accurately describing the purchase.
“Dr. Murray solicited the invoice from the (Foundation) donor with the sole identifier being ‘furniture,’” the report stated.
An April 18 report released by the UAC found other examples of potential mismanagement, including a prepaid lease agreement that was not accurately reported, technology purchases made without advance approval form the Office of the Vice President for Technology and the revenues of businesses in the Blue Sky West business incubator not matching operational expenditures.
In an email to The Oracle, University spokesman Michael Hoad said USF followed the “standard process” after receiving two anonymous complaints about business practices conducted at USF Polytechnic.
“One was found to be without basis and the other was investigated and reported on by the (UAC),” he said. “The findings of that investigation were presented to the individuals involved and they were given the opportunity to respond, as is normal practice. That report can now be publicly disclosed under Florida law.”
Touchton said he heard that before he arrived as interim chancellor, Goodman “wasn’t very involved.”
“I don’t know. I heard he communicated sometimes by phone, but … we’re trying to move forward,” he said. “We might have to deal with him, I hope not, but we might. There was an executive committee that I think a lot of the decisions were made from. I had one meeting with the exec committee and I decided, if I was going to be the one responsible, I didn’t need the executive committee.”
Touchton said USF is also looking to recover more than $414,000, or 49 percent, of students Activity and Service (A&S) fee funds that currently belong to Florida Polytechnic University.