Florida State College at Jacksonville trustees consider options, costs of ousting president

State senator accuses President Steve Wallace of mismanagement

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Florida State College at Jacksonville's board of trustees postponed a meeting scheduled Friday morning to discuss "employment matters" amid indications they are getting ready to part ways with President Steven Wallace.

This is the latest development after two critical audits of the college's finances and management structure, $4.7 million in inappropriate awards of federal Pell grants, and the subsequent discipline and demotion of employees.

Board Chairwoman Gwen Yates asked attorney Hank Coxe to advise the District Board of Trustees. Based on his advice, and at the request of some trustees, FSCJ rescheduled the meeting for 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Yates also authorized former board chairman to discuss "matters involving the employment contract of Wallace and make recommendations for possible resolution."

Channel 4 contacted Yates about the decision to reschedule the meeting. She remained mum, and said she's "not going to discuss anything that's on the agenda."

Other documents Channel 4 has obtained from FSCJ show officials looking at the cost of "separation" with Wallace, which would vary from $362,160 if he was terminated for "cause," to nearly $800,000 if he leaves voluntarily, to $851,020 if he is let go "without cause."

DOCUMENTS: Wallace's employment discussions | Trustee Suanne Thamm's email

Florida State Sen. Steve Oelrich of Gainesville has called for a grand jury investigation into FSCJ for a number of reasons. The college wrongly approved 1,700 federal loans, and Wallace may have misused public funds, according to Oelrich.

"How does a university spend $100,000 on liquor with a straight face? How do allegations of his automobile use and travel, and all the benefits -- how does this benefit the university? I'm not sure how a trip to Europe or Hawaii benefits the university," Oelrich said.

A state audit looked into whether Wallace moved nearly 100 days of unused sick leave into his vacation. The audit deemed the move legal because it's money that would be paid to him.

"There is just so much suspicion. As me as the higher chairman, I've got serious concerns about how that college is being conducted in the past, and there's good evidence of a cover-up," Oelrich said.

Celine McArthur is a former employee at the college and investigative reporter who blew the whistle on the school's financial mismanagement and the possible end of Steve Wallace's tenure.

"The key points that I brought up were wasteful spending, lack of transparency, gross mismanagement, unethical and unlawful behavior -- and the case has expanded since then," said McArthur. 

McArthur said she regularly sends information to the Governor's office, hoping he'll call for a grand jury investigation into how FSCJ has been run.

"I've sent him every piece of information. I really hope so. He has campaigned on eliminating waste in government and this is one case," said McArthur. 

Last Sunday, Gov. Rick Scott ordered top-down review at FSCJ.

Suanne Thamm, one of the FSCJ trustees, said in an email that it looks like Wallace will announce his "retirement" in order to forestall the governor's removal of the entire board of trustees.

"You might think that the governor would deal directly with his board on matters like college leadership. But, no. We get to read his opinions in the newspaper," Thamm wrote. "We've come a long way ... from the politics of Jeb Bush, the governor who appointed us because he cared about the future of our state's education programs and future. Even lipstick won't help the current pig."


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