Legal Bills Piling Up for FSCJ; More Likely; Faculty Organization President Laments Funds Not Going to Education

Article excerpt

Byline: Nate Monroe

Seeking to untangle itself from controversy surrounding its former top two officials, Florida State College at Jacksonville has spent at least $1.3 million in leave payouts, a settlement and outside legal services.

And since loose ends remain between the college and ex-president Steve Wallace, the costs could continue to rise.

For some, the money already spent is troubling.

Karen Morian, president of United Faculty of Florida at FSCJ, said in a written statement the union "regrets the large amount of funds directed away from educational expenses."

"Our students and faculty are hurting financially, and we hope that the new administration will see fit to prioritize our primary mission of education when dispersing college funds," she said.

The costs accumulated so far include:

- About $365,000 for outside legal services related to issues surrounding Wallace and his former executive vice president, Don Green. A bulk of that work was done by three Jacksonville firms: Foley & Lardner, Alexander DeGance Barnett and the Bedell firm. Andrew Kantor, FSCJ's assistant general counsel and one of the school's two full-time attorneys, said the college sometimes has to hire outside attorneys to handle specialized topics, like employment issues.

- More than $570,000 in payouts to Wallace for unused leave.

In October 2012, days before the board approved his request to step down as president and work on a consulting contract, Wallace requested and later received $336,776 for 2,052 hours of vacation he accumulated in his 15-year tenure as president.

After learning Wallace had been investigated for abusing leave time and potential ethics violations, the board terminated his consulting contract, which was to run through Dec. 31.

Earlier this month, however, the school paid him another $237,412 for additional leave time, the bulk of which came from 212 days of a management perk called "senior management benefit days" that he banked during his time as president and for which FSCJ's attorneys said it had no choice but to pay.

That was a portion of a total $529,139 Wallace demanded in a Nov. …