USF Poly says no nepotism in hirings of chancellor's sons

The University of South Florida Polytechnic has been good to the Goodman family.

Marshall Goodman, its regional chancellor since 2006, earns more than $261,000 a year, the highest salary of all three USF system regional chancellors. And during his tenure, both of his sons have worked for the Lakeland branch campus.

Robert Goodman, 27, beat out more than a dozen applicants for a $50,112 job at USF Poly last year.

Steven Goodman, 24, the chancellor's other son, earned $3,000 over three months as a consultant for USF Poly's social media services.

Does that qualify as nepotism?

USF Poly, which is at the center of a debate about whether it should split off and become an independent public university, says no.

"USF Polytechnic recognizes the concerns of nepotism and has made additional efforts to ensure we follow proper procedures," said spokeswoman Samantha Lane.

Michael Hoad, spokesman at USF's main Tampa campus, put it this way: "There was a potential for conflict of interest, and we had to manage that potential."

Marshall Goodman was not available for an interview, Lane said.

Before opening its new business incubator program in Polk County, called Blue Sky, USF Poly decided to bring in someone to promote the venture on social media. They landed on Steven Goodman.

He worked for USF for three months starting in December 2009. But, according to Lane, his father never knew about it.

"When he was informed, Dr. Goodman personally reimbursed the full amount to USF Polytechnic for all payment to Steven Goodman," Lane said.

Documents from USF Poly corroborate that account.

Steven Goodman sent three invoices to USF Poly for $1,000 each to create and maintain the Blue Sky blog and Twitter account, monitor staff LinkedIn accounts, shoot video for USF Poly's YouTube channel and deliver weekly progress reports.

USF used his services, Lane said, because at the time he was president of NeoNet Media, a Lakeland consulting firm dedicated to bringing "21st century marketing techniques" to its clients, according to its website.

A person who answered the company's phone Wednesday said Goodman no longer worked there.

The offer for Goodman's other son, Robert, came in August 2010.

On behalf of USF Polytechnic, the letter said, administrators were pleased to offer Robert Goodman the position of university liaison for Blue Sky. He would help coordinate internships, special events and educational programs at USF Poly's four business incubators across Polk County.

"We are very excited about the prospect of your joining our team and our staff at USF!" the letter said. Marshall Goodman, his father, is one of two people who signed it.

The same day, USF president Judy Genshaft signed a memo from USF Polytechnic titled, "No violation of nepotism exists," detailing the reasons why Robert Goodman was the most qualified candidate for the position.

Out of 17 applicants, Goodman, who earned a master's in history from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, was the only one with an education from a polytechnic university, the memo says. And he gave the best on-campus interview.

While the regional chancellor has the campus' hiring authority, the memo says, Marshall Goodman was not part of the search process and would not supervise his son. Instead, Robert Goodman would report to Blue Sky director Travis Brown.

What Genshaft was approving with her signature, Hoad said, was the conflict management plan.

"It's not illegal and not inappropriate to hire family members within the whole university," Hoad said. USF has many relatives among its thousands of employees.

What is less common is the creation of a potential conflict of interest, with one relative having authority over another's hiring, promotions, salary or dismissal.

But it does happen, Hoad said, and when it does, the school creates a plan to manage the potential conflict that is signed by higher management.

However, Hoad pointed out, "very few would reach the president's level." He wasn't aware of any similar conflict arrangements generated by either chancellor of USF's other regional campuses.

Robert Goodman did not return calls or e-mails seeking comment.

A self-evaluation in his personnel file from January offers some insight into how the job has gone.

Goodman touted several accomplishments. For instance, in a year's time, he made contact with every university in Polk and three other surrounding counties. He also helped establish a high school stock market competition, manned tables at numerous locations to create word-of-mouth advertising and produced ideas for grants.

There were challenges.

"Full potential of the University and its student climate has yet to materialized to the 2013-2014 vision," Goodman wrote. "As a result, interest in the Blue Sky internship program has been sluggish. ... Additionally, direct student participation with incubator clients has been slow due to nonexistent demand from clients at this time."

His boss, Brown, gave him an overall performance rating:

"Achieves."

Kim Wilmath can be reached at kwilmath@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

USF Poly says no nepotism in hirings of chancellor's sons 10/19/11 [Last modified: Thursday, October 20, 2011 12:21am]

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