TAMPA — Administrators for Hillsborough Community College will not immediately cut ties with a developer who has misled them for the past three years.
One day after the St. Petersburg Times reported that Greg Neal had used a pattern of overstatement in his attempt to gain a lease on valuable land from the college, HCC president Gwendolyn Stephenson said she would wait to hear his response before taking any action.
"The college wants to make sure that in all of our dealings, we deal with people who are honest," she said.
College trustee Andy Graham was more direct.
"He's free to have an opportunity of rebuttal," Graham said of Neal. "If he can't rebut it, then the deal's dead."
Neal wants private investors to spend $225-million on a sports-medicine complex with a luxury hotel and culinary institute at HCC's Dale Mabry campus. But he has claimed to have partners who denied any association with him and claimed to have college degrees he didn't have. In one case, he told HCC that three major athletic-shoe companies were competing over naming rights at the complex. He later admitted making that up.
Neal did not respond to a call and an e-mail Monday. On Monday night in New Mexico, the Truth or Consequences City Commission was scheduled to hold a public hearing on the Hot Springs Motorplex, another one of Neal's development plans. Residents had read the Times report on the Internet and at least one planned to raise its findings at the hearing.
The threat of a hurricane forced HCC to cancel a trustees meeting during which they were scheduled to extend the deadline for Neal's final proposal. Now the trustees may discuss the situation at their next meeting, which is scheduled for Sept. 16.
"I thank the St. Petersburg Times for bringing the information to light," said Graham, the trustee. "While I don't make decisions based on what I read in the newspapers, I'm sure it will play an important role in whatever decision the board makes."
Stephenson said she had not spoken with Neal since the story was published. She couldn't say when she would.
"Yes, this project is an ambitious one, and one that we maintain can become a reality," she said in a prepared statement. "I feel that it is important to state that not one dollar has been paid to Greg Neal or Keystone Ventures for this project."
Thomas Lake can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3416.