Sunday, August 19, 2018
Opinion

Florida's school for scoundrels

It is probably better to remember that the temporarily exiled University of South Florida Polytechnic grand czar Marshall Goodman drew his first breath in Chicago, where he likely entered the world with a padded expense account in his tiny fingers.

That helps explain why under the Goodman junta years, USF Poly in Lakeland became little more than one man's personal playground to indulge his big-ticket geegaw whims and wanderlust on the public dime.

A few days ago, blowing off the advice and counsel of people who have the audacity to know what they are talking about, Gov. Rick Scott allowed himself to become the personal hot walker for lame duck state Sen. JD Alexander. He signed a piece of legislation allowing USF Poly to be spun off as an independent, unaccredited state university.

During his run for the Governor's Mansion, Scott touted his keen business credentials, his aversion to politics as usual and his pride in being an outsider above the nasty partisan infighting and dealmaking of Tallahassee. Phftt!

Now, less than two years into the job, he has proven he can be just as big a hypocritical phony as his new best buddy JD Alexander, the Little Lord Fauntleroy of Lake Wales.

Consider for a moment that the governor exercised less due diligence over creating Florida higher education's answer to the Vichy government than professional celebrity Heidi Montag being left unattended in a plastic surgeon's office.

Scott simply didn't care he was signing one of the most dunderheaded pieces of legislation ever concocted in Tallahassee. Considering the Legislature's time-honored legacy of passing just about any addled bill any lobbyist is willing to pad their pockets for, this was no small accomplishment.

Scott didn't care that the state's Board of Governors had a plan, or that the students, faculty, business leaders and academic experts opposed it. All that mattered was that this was Alexander's dream to create his own local university that now has less scholarly credibility than the University of Syria's Institute for Human Rights.

What Scott got was JD Alexander and Marshall Goodman's School for Scoundrels offering advanced placement classes in nepotism, cronyism, consumerism and how to pack for long European trips.

Many of Goodman's checkbook excesses are well known. His "I'm Marshall, fly me," approach to travel; his $10,000 purchase of Star Wars statues; the silly $100,000 computer video tour of the proposed buildings for the campus; and the $50,112-a-year make-work job for one of his sons.

A more recent USF review of Goodman's treatment of the Lakeland campus as his own personal Home Shopping Network revealed money was diverted for a soda fountain, microwaves, coffeemakers and vacuums.

On Goodman's watch, $400,000 was spent on a sophisticated video wall without approval from the USF main campus. There was also the adult-sized plastic slide between floors of a USF Poly business incubator. All the better to quickly dispatch any administrator who may have questioned Goodman's spending.

Apparently Goodman did not suffer questions raised about his King Farouk stewardship, browbeating subordinates and threatening their jobs.

USF president Judy Genshaft eventually forced Goodman and his Travelocity account out of the chancellor's job. But now that Scott has approved Alexander's unaccredited state school complete with tens of millions of dollars in public money, it could be only a matter of time before Goodman is back running the new University of Shangri-la-dee-da-la-dee-da.

After gutting Florida's 11 other universities, the disingenuous Scott still thought it was a bully notion to spend millions to create a gobbler of a 12th state university that is years away from receiving its critical accreditation.

Still, it's not all bad news. The new University of Alexander the Grate will need a football team. What should it be called?

Why not the "Fighting Frequent Flyers"?

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