Gov. Rick Scott: FAMU hazing committee should not skirt laws for open meetings
UPDATE TWO (6:55 p.m.): Now Board of Governors Chairman Dean Colson is asking FAMU trustees to reverse their decision about the anti-hazing committee. Read his letter here.
UPDATE (5:45 p.m.): The Board of Trustees has scheduled an emergency meeting Friday afternoon to discuss the anti-hazing committee. No further details were given, but we think we know what it's about...
Saying Florida A&M is in a "time of turmoil," Gov. Rick Scott scolded university trustees this week for allowing an anti-hazing committee to meet in private.
"I am extremely concerned about the Committee's compliance with Florida's Sunshine Laws," he said in a letter to chairman Solomon Badger. "Who will monitor whether the members are toggling between fact-finding and possible policy and procedural changes that would make such a meeting subject to Florida's Sunshine Laws?"
By operating this way, he said, the anti-hazing committee cannot legally offer recommendations to trustees on whether FAMU's anti-hazing policies are adequate.
The committee, formed in the aftermath of the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion in November, was charged with providing recommendations on how to end hazing on campus. Multiple reports of hazing practices in the famed Marching 100 band and other campus organizations have cropped up since Champion's death, including Wednesday's news of a 2010 incident at a band faculty member's house.
The anti-hazing committee, comprised of experts in psychology, education and hazing practices, wanted to change its mission to being a "fact-finding" body so it could operate outside of Florida's Sunshine laws. But the committee should have kept its original mission, Scott said, especially since no one on the panel is a professional investigator.
"The safer course, and more in keeping with the view that Florida government proceedings should be done in the Sunshine, would be to have all Committee meetings noticed and open to the public," Scott wrote.
Scott has been on FAMU since December, when he called for FAMU President James Ammons to step down amid investigations into Champion's death and band finances. Students protested en masse outside his mansion, saying he was overstepping his authority by calling on trustees to suspend Ammons.
The board had already decided not to suspend Ammons but to reprimand him for his handling of hazing reports in the band before Champion's death in Orlando on Nov. 19.
His death has been ruled a homicide. Criminal charges from the bus incident have not been filed.
The Times/Herald received a copy of the letter, first reported by the Tallahassee Democrat, on Thursday.