Haunted seats on the Board of Trustees

By Lianna Hubbard

It was an unusual Board of Trustees meeting on the Charlotte campus on Feb. 26. Three of the nine seats on the board had ghosts sitting in them.

A day before the meeting, Governor Ronald DeSantis repealed the appointments of six FSW trustees. Three of repealed members showed up to the meeting. Name tags for the three missing trustees, whose appointments were repealed, sat in front of empty spaces.

For many on campus, the Board of Trustees is the invisible governing power of FSW. No faculty sit in its chairs. Students will rarely meet its members.

Yet the board controls the financing and investing of the college and the hiring and firing of the president. They approve long-term faculty contracts, the renovation of buildings, and academic calendars.

Now, the board is in disarray.

DeSantis removed 169 people from governor-appointed positions, including FSW’s Trustees, in a letter to Florida Senate President Bill Galvano. They were all appointed by the former governor, Rick Scott, but had not been approved by the senate.

Trustees Mike Boose, Christian Cunningham, Laura Perry, Julia du Pooly, Jonathan Martin, and Vice Chair Danny Nix were removed from the board.

“I’m going to reapply and hopefully get back on the board,” said Nix.

Board of Trustees members at Florida state colleges like FSW are appointed by Florida’s governor and confirmed by the state senate. FSW Trustees have four year terms, but the governor can reappoint them.

When a term runs out or a Trustee is repealed, the seats expire. Trustees who still sit in them until they are replaced or reappointed, like the six, are ghost trustees.

Chair Braxton Rhone is another ghost. His seat expired in 2016, but he has continued his position as chair.

This isn’t the first time FSW’s Board of Trustees has had vacant seats.

“The group that you see today wasn’t here half a year ago,” said FSW President Jeffrey Allbritten.

In FSW’s last academic year, 2017-2018, seven Board of Trustees seats expired, leaving the college scrambling to fill them.

Then-Vice Chair Rhone became chair. Trustee Marjorie Starnes-Billoti, stayed on the board.

Nix was appointed in Nov. 2017 and became vice chair. Boose, Cunningham, Pooly, and Martin were appointed in Jan. and Feb. 2018. Perry was appointed in April.

All six are being removed from the board.

The seventh appointment from last academic year, Bruce Laishley, who was appointed in Aug. 2017, is the only one to stay.

In the last meeting, the board went about business as usual.

Allbritten sat with the board as Interim Provost Eileen DeLuca and Vice President of Administrative Services Gina Doeble presented agenda items.

It is unclear when Governor DeSantis will appoint new trustees.

“We are waiting to see,” said Allbritten.

In the meantime, those vacant seats will be filled by the ghost trustees.

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