TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees prepares for a crucial meeting, a powerful Tallahassee pastor and former trustee said Wednesday the panel should not renew the contract of FAMU's embattled president, Elmira Mangum.
"There is so much confusion, division and discord in this administration," the Rev. R.B. Holmes, pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, told The News Service of Florida. "There is great tension among the faculty and staff and infighting among the president's leadership team. This kind of chaos and confusion is not good for the future of FAMU."
Holmes praised the university's reconstituted 13-member Board of Trustees -- which has eight new members following a failed attempt to oust Mangum last fall -- but said its problems with the president were the same.
"Not only was there poor communication with the past Board of Trustees, you have the same thing with the new Board of Trustees," Holmes said. "I don't believe you can fix it at this point."
The president, who has been on the job slightly more than two years, barely fended off an attempt to fire her in October. Some trustees subsequently resigned, while others were replaced by Gov. Rick Scott and the state university system's Board of Governors as terms expired.
The new Board of Trustees will meet this week, starting with a series of committee meetings Thursday that will include a special committee evaluating Mangum's job performance. On Friday, the full board will meet.
No vote is scheduled on Mangum's contract at the Friday meeting. But the board has until the end of June to declare whether it will renew her contract, under the contract's terms.
Last month, Mangum rejected a request by interim board Chairman Kelvin Lawson to extend by 45 days the June 30 deadline for making a decision on the contract renewal. She said she did so on the advice of her lawyer.
"I referred all contract discussions to my attorney," Mangum said last week.
Trustee Matthew Carter, a member of the special committee on presidential evaluation, said he was unclear whether the committee would vote on Mangum's evaluation at its Thursday meeting or whether it would have to vote on an evaluation before the full board could vote on the contract.
But he said Mangum's refusal to extend the contract talks had narrowed his options.
"The fact that the acting chair reached out and asked for the extension, knowing that you've got new board members who want to get more involved -- but on the advice of her counsel, Dr. Mangum says no -- that tells me I need to do what I need to do," Carter said. "If waiting is not the thing to do, then let's not wait."
Carter said he thought Mangum, "with her prior board, was used to being in combat -- so much that when the new board came on board, she basically assumed we were all of the same mindset, and was still in her combat mode."
But that's not the case, Carter said, adding that Mangum should get to know the trustees individually and develop a spirit of cooperation with them.
The special committee had planned to vote on Mangum's evaluation Thursday. But at a May 11 meeting, members said they were troubled by the lack of measurable goals and objectives Mangum had offered for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
Mangum has submitted a new set of goals with metrics, as the committee requested. She also submitted a self-assessment in which she said she meets or exceeds expectations in all categories, including board and governance relations.
"Shared governance is a key to the success of any university," she wrote. "During the past year, an increased focus was placed on ensuring that the board was provided with information to enable it to fulfill its decision-making obligations. Each week, I issue 'Notes' to the board that highlight major initiatives that are underway or proposed. Along with the weekly 'Notes,' I made calls to individual members on a weekly or biweekly basis to help build a relationship with the board."
But Holmes said one reason Mangum's administration is at a crossroads is "her inability to communicate efficiently and positively" with the trustees.
"I was one of the strongest supporters of the Mangum administration" when the president was hired, Holmes said. "I am saddened that it has come to this point, where former presidents, leaders of the Faculty Senate, (students) and a growing number of alumni and community leaders strongly believe that we can do better."