TALLAHASSEE — Just days after Florida State University faculty said they lost confidence in the man hired to help the school find a new president, search consultant Bill Funk abruptly resigned.
Funk walked away from a job where he had increasingly taken heat, especially after recommending the presidential search be suspended so Republican state Sen. John Thrasher could receive sole consideration. News of his resignation Monday is the latest twist in an increasingly messy process that is bringing embarrassment to the university.
Funk turned down a Times/Herald request for comment, and his two-sentence letter gives no indication why he resigned. Search committee chairman Ed Burr released a statement saying Funk's withdrawal was "disappointing" but would not derail the process.
"Mr. Funk felt he could no longer make the kind of contribution to the search that the university deserves," Burr said. "… We remain committed to conducting a thorough, open and transparent search of the highest quality and integrity for the next president of Florida State University."
Funk, founder of a Dallas-based firm that bears his name, is one of the leading higher education headhunters in the nation. He led the 2002 search that resulted in FSU hiring T.K. Wetherell as president and more recently helped Florida Polytechnic University and Ohio State University find new leaders.
The FSU search committee hired Funk in March to help find a replacement for Eric Barron, who resigned to become president at Pennsylvania State University. Funk's contract was worth up to $75,000, plus expenses. He had been paid approximately $61,000 to date, which includes fees and reimbursable costs.
Funk had faced criticism from faculty and left-leaning student groups since May 21, when he told the search committee it should interview Thrasher before vetting additional applicants for the presidency. Funk said widespread rumors that Thrasher had the inside track on the job were keeping other highly qualified candidates from applying.
A divided search committee agreed to move forward with Funk's recommendation. Last week, Burr made his own surprise announcement and said he no longer thought Thrasher's presence deterred good candidates.
The catalyst was Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston saying he was interested in the job.
Burr canceled Thrasher's interview, planned for Wednesday, though the search committee still agreed to meet to discuss next steps. Now, that discussion will include selecting a new consultant.
Faculty Union president Jennifer Proffitt said Funk's resignation provides FSU the opportunity to "reset the search."
"We hope that this brings us another step closer to the fair and open process that we have been advocating for," she said.
Tia Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 224-7263.