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Awaiting appointments, bay area college trustees stay on after terms expire

Four of the five trustees who govern St. Petersburg College remain in their posts even though their terms have expired.

So do three of the five trustees at Hillsborough Community College and six on the nine-member board of trustees at Pasco-Hernando Community College.

But that's a common situation at Florida state colleges, where more than 100 trustee posts await appointments by the governor's office.

At SPC, two trustees' terms ended in May. Two others expired more than a year ago.

The issue came to light after the St. Petersburg Times reported Aug. 1 that the SPC trustees approved this year's $145 million budget without seeing a completed copy of it.

As of last week, Gov. Rick Scott had appointed 32 trustees, for only eight of the 28 state colleges, though he has been in office since early January.

"When it comes to appointments, the governor has a lot on his plate," said Scott's press secretary, Lane Wright.

Statewide, the governor is responsible for appointing individuals to roughly 540 boards and commissions, each with a number of seats. He must not only fill vacancies that have occurred under his watch, but he's also catching up on a backlog of appointments left over from former Gov. Charlie Crist's administration, Wright said. Scott has made about 300 appointments to those statewide boards and commissions. But that still leaves more than 1,500 outstanding, Wright said.

The governor's office staff evaluates applications for state college trustees. The best candidates are presented to the governor, who discusses them with his appointment team. Once decisions are made, the office generally contacts appointees to make sure they still want the position.

College trustees are unpaid. Each board is responsible for approving budgets and making policy decisions to ensure colleges run properly. Each trustee must also be confirmed by the state Senate.

Under state law, it's okay for state college trustees with expired terms to stay on. They can continue serving until an appointment is made, said state Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters.

At SPC, all trustees with expired terms say they've applied to serve again.

"It's a college that gives great opportunities to people and that motivates me to stay involved with it," said trustee Ken Burke, whose term expired in May. Burke, who is also Pinellas County's elected clerk of court, graduated from SPC and has served on the alumni board since 1979.

SPC trustee Dick Johnston, whose term expired in May 2010, is also eager to stay involved.

"There's no grand glory," said Johnston, who was appointed as trustee in 1999 and served for a decade 30 years earlier, too. "If something goes wrong you catch it in the press real quick. But there is that satisfaction that you are helping students get an education and further their ability to have a better quality of life."

SPC trustee Evelyn Bilirakis' term also expired in May. Deveron Gibbons' term expired a year earlier. The term for the fifth trustee, chairman Terrence Brett, expires in 2013.

At Hillsborough Community College, Daniel Coton's term expired in May and terms for Andrew Graham and Rod Jurado ended last year.

Pasco-Hernando Community College has had one vacancy on its nine-member board since about a year ago, when Deborah Kilgore resigned. The board has gone ahead with eight members, but most of those trustees' terms have expired: Last year for Jeanne Garish, Judy Parker and Gary Worthley, and in May for Thomas Weightman, Irvin Homer and Wilton E. Simpson.

For some colleges, the need for appointments is critical. At Florida Keys Community College, where three board members' terms have expired, trustees delayed starting a search for a college president because trustee appointments had not been made.

Wright couldn't provide a firm timetable for the governor to make SPC's appointments. But, he said, "They're working on it right now."

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Awaiting appointments, bay area college trustees stay on after terms expire 08/14/11 [Last modified: Sunday, August 14, 2011 8:10pm]
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