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FSU donors file lawsuit over matching funds

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A second lawsuit was filed Monday alleging that Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature have failed to provide matching funds, as required by state law, for private donations to colleges and universities.

Following a class-action lawsuit filed earlier this month by two University of Florida graduates, who alleged the lack of state support hurt their education, two Florida State University law-school graduates filed a “companion” lawsuit Monday as donors to FSU, seeking to compel the state to provide the matching funds.

The two lawsuits allege the state has failed to provide more than $600 million in state funding to match $460 million in private donations in four programs authorized by state law for colleges and universities.

The new lawsuit involves Tommy Warren, a lawyer and former FSU football player, and his wife, Kathleen Villacorta, who donated $100,000 to the FSU law school in 2003 to create the “Calvin Patterson Civil Rights Endowed Scholarship” for law students, honoring Warren's former teammate who was the first African-American football player at the university.

The donation was matched by the state. Warren and Villacorta in 2011 donated another $100,000 to the Patterson scholarships, which are used to support students “who have demonstrated a significant interest and commitment to further civil rights.” But the donation was never matched by the state.

The lawsuit alleges the state stopped providing the matching funds during the recession and never resumed them after the economy recovered, although the matching programs remain authorized by law.

In 2015, Warren and Villacorta donated another $100,000 to FSU, creating the “Coastal and Marine Conservation Student Research Endowment.”

But the lawsuit said the donation was never matched by the state. Warren said he and Villacorta

are not seeking to recover their donations “but rather seek to compel the state to match the donations.” The state has not filed a response to the lawsuit.