Trustees must not send wrong signal

The way an organization executes due process says a lot about its efficiency and integrity.

Knowing this, I am troubled by the message the FAMU Board of Trustees may be sending as it administers its evaluation of President Gainous.

In December, FAMU trustees received an e-mail that said one of the trustees privately contacted the firm that was selected to conduct the presidential evaluation, Greinn and Associates, and ordered it to eliminate one of its required activities.

As a result, the board voted to ratify the contract change.

But due process in Florida cannot exist without the Sunshine Law, which requires public boards to conduct business openly and on the record.

“The Government-In-The-Sunshine Manual” gives board members the right to make decisions on behalf of the board.

However, when the board member does so, he or she is acting on behalf of the board and the meetings are subject to the Sunshine Law.

So, are board members even allowed to negotiate parts of a consulting contract outside of a public meeting? And can a board then retroactively validate those negotiations?

The Sunshine Law also applies to meetings between a board member and an individual who is not a member of the board when that individual is used to conduct a de facto meeting of board members.

Does this include the private meetings conducted between the consultant and FAMU’s trustees?

I hope those FAMU trustees who have assured that our presidential evaluation is being handled professionally and legally are correct.

After unexplainable delays in the process, our board cannot afford to let this evaluation take on any appearance of statutory noncompliance.

Let us proceed cautiously.

Larry O. Rivers is a senior public relations student from Tallahassee. He is a trustee and FAMU’s student body president. Contact Larry O.