Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FAMU President Survives 2 Ouster Votes by Trustees; Board Rejects Move to Fire Mangum with Cause, Deadlocks on Second Try

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FAMU President Survives 2 Ouster Votes by Trustees; Board Rejects Move to Fire Mangum with Cause, Deadlocks on Second Try

Article excerpt

Byline: Tia Mitchell

TALLAHASSEE | Florida A&M University President Elmira Mangum survived two attempts Thursday morning to fire her at an emergency meeting of the Board of Trustees.

Trustees initially voted 7-5 to reject an effort to fire Mangum "with cause."

A second vote to fire her "without cause" failed with a 6-6 tie after one trustee switched to "yes."

The votes indicate that Mangum's relationships with some trustees are not getting any better after months of contentious meetings and finger-pointing followed by promises to "hit the reset button."

Mangum was traveling in North Carolina on Thursday but issued a statement via email after the meeting that said 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 said.

Board Chairman Rufus Montgomery, who has had tense relations with Mangum since she started the job in April 2014, supported both votes to fire her. He did not return a voicemail and text message to his cellphone seeking comment after the meeting. The board's public relations firm released a statement attributed to Vice Chairman Kelvin Lawson.

"What happened today was a robust, sincere and thoughtful dialogue that attempted to uphold the responsibilities of the Board of Trustees," the statement said.

Board members and Mangum attended the emergency meeting via conference call while FAMU students, faculty and alumni monitored via the campus radio station, a smartphone app and social media.

Lawson started off by outlining issues in an auditor's review now underway, including improper payments for renovations to the president's campus home and a bonus for Provost Marcella David paid with public funds, a violation of state law.

After outlining his concerns, Lawson made the first motion to fire Mangum, a move that took some trustees by surprise. The agenda released Wednesday only said that financial issues under Mangum's administration would be discussed.

Mangum, in a letter to trustees late Wednesday, defended herself and she reiterated her position during the call. She said the home renovations started before her tenure began and spending already had been authorized. She said that the issue with the bonus has been corrected.

Others later pointed out that it is common for Florida public universities to pay bonuses initially using state money and reimbursing the accounts later using private foundation dollars.

Trustee Cleve Warren of Jacksonville was among those who disagreed with firing Mangum and said trustees should take responsibility for allowing things to become so negative.

"I join the chorus in agreeing that this relationship that the board has with our president is untenable, it's embarrassing, it's disruptive and, quite frankly, destructive," Warren said. …

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