Florida Polytechnic University trustee candidates interviewed by Board of Governors

3:25 PM, Jul 11, 2012   |    comments
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TAMPA BAY, Florida -  In-person and by phone, 10 trustee candidates for the new Florida Polytechnic University are interviewing with Florida's Board of Governors (BOG) in Orlando Wednesday afternoon.

10 News reported the list of the candidates - which included elected officials, local business leaders, and prominent educators - on Tuesday.

INTERACTIVE TIMELINE: 10 News' Coverage of USF/Florida Poly

Interviewing the candidates were three BOG members: Chairman Dean Colson, former chairman Ava Parker, and Florida Poly Select Committee chair Mori Hosseini.

None of the candidates identified by 10 News as having failed to disclose possible conflicts of interest earned interviews.

But the subcommittee still asked the finalists if they had any relationship whatsoever with Florida Polytechnic University (FPU), the University of South Florida (USF), which previously operated the land FPU will be built on in Lakeland, or any of the USF Poly administrators who were ousted in recent months.

Colson, referencing a 10 News story about the possible re-emergency of former USF Poly Chancellor Marshall Goodman, asked Polk City Councilor Trudy Block if she had any personal or political connections that might raise concern.

She responded that she had none and that "the only thing I want is success for (Florida Poly)."  A number of other candidates offered similar answers.

Polk Co. Commissioner Bob English was also asked about his objectivity with allies of Marshall Goodman pushing for his return, to which he responded, "Whoever is the best candidate is who will get the job."

In February, English vented frustration with the Poly situation at a commission meeting, saying, "In spite of the fact Polk County has contributed over $21 million into this project, we've been ignored."

Following Wednesday's interviews, the subcommittee will recommend trustees for appointment to the full BOG on Thursday.  While the BOG will eventually appoint five of the board's 13 trustees, Hosseini suggested only appointing three or four at this time so they can see who Gov. Scott appoints with his six positions.

"It gives us an opportunity to look at the board (of trustees)," Hosseini said, "and see what specialized skills are needed."

Hosseini said it would still allow the new FPU board to start making decisions for the fledgling university, the state's 12th.

Once faculty and students are brought into FPU, a representative from each group will also sit on the Board of Trustees.  All trustee appointments will need confirmation from the legislature in 2013.

"This is a very unique opportunity for (the BOG) to create a new university and set the standards from ground-up," Hosseini added.

Candidates for the Board of Trustees spoke of their personal accomplishments Wednesday as well as their attitudes toward tenure, STEM degrees, and campus management.  But some also spoke of mending fences and establishing credibility after months of controversy in Lakeland.

INTERACTIVE TIMELINE: 10 News' Coverage of USF/Florida Poly

"I think this will be very important for the new board to establish itself very early on to be transparent in the decision-making process," said Frank Martin, a former Board of Governors member seeking a trustee spot.

Connect with 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook at www.facebook.com/noahpransky or Twitter at www.twitter.com/noahpransky.  Send your story tips to noah@wtsp.com.

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