African Union president backs down from politically charged no-confidence vote

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The Florida Board of Governors issued a vote of no confidence in the chair of Florida Atlantic University’s Board of Trustees on Wednesday, accusing the university’s president of what they called a series of procedural errors related to the university’s search for a new president.

The impromptu vote to convict President Brad Levine marks the latest escalation in tensions between regents and FAU officials during the year-long effort to choose the next leader of the Boca Raton school.

But it arose as a result of a confusing set of circumstances that Levin said was based on a misinterpretation of the Corruption Analysis Unit’s procedures.

The Board of Directors did not agree to extend the term of the interim president

The unscheduled vote by the board that oversees the state’s public universities came after the regents refused to sign an employment extension for interim Federal President Stacy Volnick.

The judges said they approved of Volnick’s performance. But they refused to agree to an extension after the university system’s chancellor said the university failed to provide his staff and university trustees with a copy of Volnick’s contract.

“We never received the contract, and it appears the Board of Trustees never received the contract either,” Chancellor Ray Rodriguez said.

FAU Board of Trustees Vice Chair Barbara Feingold (right) and President Brad Levin (left)

FAU Board of Trustees Vice Chair Barbara Feingold (right) and President Brad Levin (left)

That prompted some governors to say they feared that trustees’ decision to extend her appointment in November without posting her contract on the meeting agenda would violate the state’s open meetings laws.

But Levin backed away from those assertions.

He said Volnick does not have a contract because she is interim chief. She was appointed last year to the interim position by Appointment messageWhich he said was presented to the rulers.

We never had a contract; “We have an appointment letter,” Levine said in an interview Thursday. “We gave them everything they asked for.”

Concerns about violations of the Open Meetings Law

That concern, coupled with the state’s conclusion last December that last year’s aborted presidential inspection also violated the Open Meetings Act, led some conservatives to blame Levine, who chaired the search committee.

Governor Craig Mateer, an Orlando businessman and political donor to Gov. Ron DeSantis, called for a vote of no confidence, saying that “the FAU (presidential) search is a mess” and “I personally believe Chairman Levin should resign.”

Florida Atlantic University signs on Glades Road, Boca Raton, Tuesday, August 11, 2020.

Florida Atlantic University signs on Glades Road, Boca Raton, Tuesday, August 11, 2020.

“The Board of Governors must declare that we will not tolerate this,” he said.

While they acknowledged that the vote was a symbolic act with no practical effect, other governors said it was important to signal their disagreement.

“I share the same concerns. This is now being reflected back to the Board of Governors,” said Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr., a member of the Board of Governors. “This is the second practical problem we face at Florida Atlantic University.”

Levin said after the meeting that he was “puzzled” about the governors’ decision.

“I’m just trying to do what’s right for FAU,” he said. “We followed the proposed process (by the Board of Governors) used to appoint another Florida president. Then they said this is bad and we should bring him back.”

“Everything I did was what was in the best interest of FAU,” he said.

Levine, a software entrepreneur, was appointed to the Board of Trustees by Gov. Rick Scott in 2018. He became chairman in May 2022.

Stacy Volnick, interim president, Florida Atlantic University

Stacy Volnick, interim president, Florida Atlantic University

Eric Szilagyi, a former member of the FPL, disputed the censure

Concerns about how FAU trustees extended Fulnick’s employment term appeared to come as a surprise to some governors at Wednesday’s meeting.

Gov. Eric Silagey, the former head of Florida Power & Light, voted against the censure, calling it an “extraordinary measure” that would “send tremendous reverberations through FAU.”

He added: “I do not support doing that at the moment.” I think it’s too early; “I think it’s a rash.”

“FAU has been through a lot, and it seems to me that this was a technical error that occurred,” he added.

The vote is the second time conservatives have targeted Levine, who as chairman of trustees clashed with fellow trustee Barbara Feingold, a prominent Republican political donor and former member of the Board of Governors.

Last month, the inspector general recommended that governors bar Levin from chairing the next presidential search committee, saying a violation of the Open Meetings Act during last year’s search “raises questions about the jurisdiction of the search.”

Rep. Randy Fine, R-Brevard County

Rep. Randy Fine, R-Brevard County

FAU’s search for a new president began last January and has been rocked by intrigue and infighting since controversial state Rep. Randy Fine, a Republican from Brevard County, emerged as a candidate for the job.

Fine received vocal support from Gov. Ron DeSantis and, insiders say, Feingold, vice chairman of the board of trustees and a political donor to both DeSantis and Fine.

When Fine was not among the list of finalists announced in July, Rodriguez, the university chancellor, halted the search, citing concerns about using anonymous ballots to gauge members’ support for different candidates.

The timing of the move led to widespread speculation that Vine’s exclusion had influenced the decision to intervene.

After a five-month delay, the Board of Governors last month directed FAU to restart the search, citing the inspector general’s finding that the initial search violated the Open Meetings Act.

Andrew Marra is a reporter for the Palm Beach Post. Contact him at amarra@pbpost.com.

This article originally appeared on the Palm Beach Post: FAU president backs down from no-confidence vote on presidential inspection

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