Mangum avoids termination; BOT votes for independent audit
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Elmira Mangum survived two votes by the Florida A&M Board of Trustees to remove her as president of the university, but her battle to stay in the post might not be over.
The BOT took a third vote to have an independent auditor investigate the issues at the heart of the emergency meeting called Thursday morning. Magnum wasn’t present at the conference call meeting from her offices in Lee Hall.
Mangum’s approval of bonuses for five faculty members and questions over how more than $400,000 of repairs to the president’s home were made without the knowledge or approval of the BOT were the key matters.
Internal auditors were preparing a response to a request by the Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA), when the discoveries were made, prompting concern of Mangum’s knowledge of the issues.
Terms of Mangum’s contract calls for her to get approval of the BOT for capital improvements – such as the president’s house on the Adams Street side of FAMU’s campus – that cost more than $10,000. Giving bonuses from E&G funds, as was the case, is a violation of state law.
The issue seemingly created a deep divide between board members, some pointing to constant disagreement between the president and the board. The relationship has become so acrimonious that trustee Spurgeon McWilliams questioned whether it could go on much longer.
“I don’t think this has been a good relationship at all,” he said. “I think we need a change in leadership. I don’t think this is going to get better between the president and the board. I’m not comfortable with a continuation of this relationship.”
Just hours following a 9-0 vote to seek an outside auditor, Mangum issued a statement, saying that she will not step down. She seemingly has the support of students, who marched from campus to the office of Gov. Rick Scott in protest of the attempted vote to oust the president.
Three board members didn’t vote for the independent audit.
The first of the two votes to terminate Mangum’s contract came after a motion by vice chairman Kelvin Lawson to terminate Mangum “with cause.” Seven of the 12 members voted in Mangum’s favor.
Immediately after the first vote failed, Robert L. Woody motioned for termination of Mangum on a vote of no-confidence without cause. That failed on a 6-6 vote.
In her statement that followed the three-hour meeting, Mangum said that her commitment to FAMU is “stronger than ever.”
“I am committed to working with all of our stakeholders to enhance the educational experience of our students, and ensure that this university operates at the most effective and efficient level possible,” she added.
At least three times during the meeting, chairman Rufus Montgomery asked Mangum to wait her turn to speak. She participated in the meeting from North Carolina, where she was attending an event in her honor.
Montgomery said he found the allegation against Mangum troubling because it would not have surfaced without the OPPAGA request.
“What’s more troubling is that our internal processes didn’t find this and present it to the board,” Montgomery said. “There was not a process that led this to the board. This only occurred because of outside interties looking at what was occurring at the institution.
“At the end of the day, this board is responsible and will be held accountable for the action.”
Richard Givens, FAMU’s vice president for audit and compliance, said no report was issued on any of the findings concerning construction spending and the bonuses. OPPAGA is still gathering information before issuing its findings.
Concerning the use of E&G funds, Givens said it wasn’t until just a few days before Thursday’s meeting that any effort was made to reimburse the E&G money.
The bonuses were issues earlier this year.
“There was no control in place to make sure it was corrected,” Givens said. “In this case, there was no detection.”
The obvious divide between board members reached a high pitch when Tonnette Graham, SGA president and board member, asked that the meeting be carried out in an amicable manner.
“If we are going to do something; let’s do it decent and in order,” she said.
Afterward, Graham briefly met with hundreds of FAMU students outside Lee Hall to protest over the board’s treatment of Mangum. SGA vice president Justin Bruno and other student government members led the group to Gov. Rick Scott’s office.
“We wanted to let everybody know that we were concerned during the past 18 months of Dr. Mangum’s tenure,” Bruno said. “We are not just going to sit back and watch these things happen to our university and be silent.”
While Scott was out of town, the governor’s staff met with Bruno and other student representatives for about 15 minutes.
“They ensured us that the concerns will be addressed,” Bruno said. “They encouraged us to follow up so that we make sure this doesn’t get lost. It’s a legitimate concern. This can’t continue.”