USF Poly budget director says his termination was politically motivated
The second of two USF Polytechnic administrators recommended for dismissal last month, following a wide-reaching investigation by USF into its embattled Lakeland campus, is disputing his firing.
Josh Bresler, head of the campus's budget, characterized the move as "USF's callous destruction of my good name for what appears to be political purposes." In a news release sent to reporters Monday, Bresler said that after 21 years with USF, his swift firing over what he deems a billing coding mistake is unfair.
The investigation that lead to his dismissal was sparked by an anonymous complaint that suggested USF Poly administrators had come up with a way to essentially launder state money through one of its rental business incubator properties. USF could not substantiate the complaint, but in the course of its investigation identified almost a dozen other violations of USF policies at the campus. One of those concerned a soda fountain in one of those incubators, something described by employees as a priority of former USF Poly chancellor Marshall Goodman. When USF's Foundation refused to pay for the fountain, USF investigators say Bresler found a way to pay for it through state dollars -- over-paying rent under the expectation that the building's lessee would pay for the fountains with the extra money.
Bresler was one of two top staffers whom USF recommended for dismissal due to those findings. The other, USF Poly planning and facilities director Alice Murray, resigned last week.
Bresler said his and Murray's dismissals, in addition to other staffers removed by USF Poly interim chancellor David Touchton earlier this year, are part of a house-cleaning in advance of the campus's imminent shift to an independent university.
Beginning July 1, USF Polytechnic will be no more. Under a bill pushed by Sen. JD Alexander last session and signed by Gov. Rick Scott, USF must give all the resources of its Lakeland branch to a soon-to-be-created governing board for the new, independent Florida Polytechnic. The bill stipulates that USF must keep all USF Poly's faculty and staff on the payroll until that official split, and a couple weeks ago USF President Judy Genshaft said she would extend that grace period for another year, until July 2013.
There's one exception: employees fired "for cause," like Breser.
"It appears that there is a concerted effort not only to remove all of us with the expertise and experience to transition a campus, but to tarnish our reputations to the point as to make us undesirable to be hired by the new polytechnic or any other institution," Bresler said in his release. "USFP staff and administrators are caught in the midst of a political storm."