Tuesday, December 5, 2023

FAU Search Investigation Drags On But Volnick Still an Option

Florida Atlantic University had a “Huh?” moment during last week’s Board of Governors meeting.

After four months, it seemed likely that FAU finally would learn the results of an investigation into the presidential search. Presumably, the board then would decide if the search could resume or would have to start over.

Instead, State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues said the staff is still “working diligently” on the investigation. Rodrigues said he would provide “an update in the near future.”

It beggars belief that the system’s inspector general has not completed her work after all this time and that Rodrigues has not reached a conclusion. The fact that no board member pressed Rodrigues—after all the controversy surrounding the search—suggests that much is going on behind the scenes about choosing FAU’s next president.

The Board of Governors doesn’t meet again for two months. FAU’s interim president, Stacy Volnick, has been on the job since Jan. 1. Many other top administrative positions don’t have permanent leaders. With FAU apparently having dodged the bullet of getting the unqualified State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, the Faculty Senate has proposed that FAU’s trustees offer Volnick a three-year contract.

As it happens, Volnick’s evaluation is on the agenda for today’s trustees’ meeting. Chairman Brad Levine has submitted a rating of Exceptional for his colleagues’ comments.

in his evaluation, Levine cites Volnick’s “many impressive accomplishments.” FAU received $68 million during its recent fundraising campaign—the second-highest amount ever. Volnick, Levine said, “leveraged” the Final Four run by the men’s basketball team to get lots of free media. Overall, Levine said, Volnick has “energized the culture.”

In her self-evaluation, Volnick points out that this year’s freshman class is FAU’s largest. She cites new contracts for Dusty May, who coached that Final Four team, and Athletic Director Brian White. Volnick also touts faculty raises that she secured to address low morale.

Levine notes that in evaluating Volnick he consulted with the Board of Governors, which “universally commended” her. Rodrigues shared that sentiment last week, telling Volnick in her presence “how highly valued” she is and calling her “an outstanding leader in a very complex time.” Chairman Brian Lamb said, “I echo that.”

The Board of Governors must approve all presidential hires. One could infer from the brief, cryptic discussion of the FAU search that discussions about the Volnick option are happening. One also could infer that discussions are happening to see whether Gov. DeSantis wants to appoint another candidate, having soured on Fine.

The Volnick option could come up at today’s meeting. Even if it doesn’t, sentiment seems to be growing that FAU needs stability. If the trustees like Volnick and the Board of Governors likes Volnick, stability could be within reach.

Ahnell to retire at end of year                                         

wildflower lawsuit
Boca Raton City Manager Leif Ahnell

Boca Raton City Manager Leif Ahnell will retire on Dec. 31 after 24 years in that role.

Ahnell thus will leave three months ahead of the succession schedule under which Deputy City Manager George Brown will take over. Documents approving the succession and timeline are on the agenda for tonight’s city council meeting.

No city manager in Palm Beach County has served longer. Ahnell’s closest competitor for that distinction is Ron Ferris, who has led Palm Beach Gardens since 2001. The average tenure for city managers in Florida is 3.4 years.

I’ll have more in my Thursday post.

Boca Council: speaker time—and wildlife—limits

Also at tonight’s meeting the council will hold hearings on two items that could draw lots of public comment.

One would shorten from five minutes to three minutes the amount of time for speakers at meetings. Boca Raton is among the very few cities that allow so much time. Delray Beach limits speakers to three minutes.

The other would prohibit the feeding of “pigeons, ducks and other wildlife” that “results in the accumulation of waste, vermin attraction, public disruption, property damage, unpleasant odors, or health and environmental risks.” Anything involving wildlife invites lots of comment.

The time-limit item comes first. If approved, will the council apply the new limit to the wildlife feeding item?

New lease for EJS in Delray?                                            


A resolution of the dispute between Delray Beach and the city’s Black American Legion post may be at hand.

On the agenda for today’s city commission meeting is approval of a resolution that would authorize City Manager Terrence Moore to negotiate a new lease of the city property at 196 Northwest Eighth Avenue that once was home to Sherman Williams Post 188. Its first members, who formed the post in 1946, included some of the city’s Black pioneers.

Under the lease, the Emanuel Jackson Sr. Project, one of the city’s most successful and respected non-profit groups, would use the site for its programs and allow the American Legion post to use the site for meetings. The group sent an unsolicited proposal to the city in August. By law the city then had to advertise the lease. No other groups responded.

In 2019, the city ended Post 188’s lease. The group sued, and a mediation attempt several weeks ago did not resolve the dispute. A lease with the Emanuel Jackson Sr. Project would seem to have a better chance than extended litigation.

Delray pickleball tournament up for discussion


Delray Beach is getting with the pickleball craze.

On the agenda for today’s commission meeting is an agreement with the Delray Beach Pickleball Club to use the city’s tennis center for an annual tournament this year and the next two years. According to the staff memo, 1,000 players would compete.

The club would pay $8,000 to rent the center. The first event would take place from Nov. 27 to Dec. 4.

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Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.

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