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Thursday letters: A greater check on power is needed at St. Petersburg College

St. Petersburg College

A greater check on power needed

Until the late '60s St. Petersburg Junior College was under the jurisdiction of the elected Pinellas County School Board. The state Legislature at that time, in its wisdom, decided to separate the community colleges from the school boards and put each college under a separate board of trustees. These boards were to be appointed by the governor. In essence, choosing these trustees then became pretty much a matter of political patronage.

What has happened now is that when a community college president becomes well connected politically, and has the ear of the governor, he can pretty much control which people are going to be appointed to oversee him. This has been the case with St. Petersburg College. Our outgoing president, Carl Kuttler, has virtually chosen the people who were, and continue to be, responsible for overseeing him.

Power has to be checked, but in the system that we now operate under, the generally accepted idea of checks and balances is almost nonexistent. The state Legislature should now address this problem that they initially created.

I suggest that perhaps nominating commissions could be established comparable to the Judicial Nominating Commissions that most of us are familiar with. The process will always be political but a change could make it less so, and ensure a greater check on power, which seems always to be desirable.

Gerald Ramsberger, St. Petersburg

Kuttler's troubling parting demands | Dec. 4

Failing the ethics test

Carl Kuttler instituted the applied ethics course at St. Petersburg College as his darling course. It was to be the "capstone," as he called it, of a student's education. He even made it a required class in order to graduate. Let's evaluate and grade him now as he is set to graduate.

Kuttler believes he is owed roughly $680,000 in unused sick leave and vacation time. This figure is on top of his enormous salary over the years, his lavish worldwide trips at taxpayer expense and an exorbitant retirement pension. Now, let's briefly apply some of the various ethical theories used in the applied ethics course in evaluating the proper course of action per his request for the money.

First, in his order, is divine law. In other words, let's look at the Ten Commandments. Here we are faced with "Thou shalt not steal." Then he is faced with "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods." Since the taxpayers are his neighbors and he is essentially stealing from us, divine law would negate his request.

Next is the ethical theory of duty. Doesn't Kuttler have a duty to work to his abilities and receive just compensation? Here again, he has been paid extremely well over the years, traveled the world and will be rewarded with a huge retirement. This ethical theory of duty seems to lie in the taxpayers' favor.

Lastly, how about the theory of utilitarianism espoused by John Stuart Mill? In other words, what does the most good for the greatest number of people? Alas, this also favors all the taxpayers.

Therefore, for Carl Kuttler to expect this sum or any amount of money as a send-off would be preposterous even though his system of governance within the college could allow it. These ethical theories also apply to the board of governors and trustees of St. Petersburg College.

Mr. Kuttler, because you feel that this is legal and you can get away with it does not make it morally right.

Peter L. Richard, Pinellas Park

St. Petersburg College

Experience counts

SPC is a source of community and statewide pride. It has evolved from a single-campus, two-year junior college to become a premier provider of postsecondary education. Much of this progress can be credited to the current administrative leadership, which has been in place nearly 40 years. Many of the institution's current problems and future challenges can also be credited to that leadership. The current flap over president Carl Kuttler's sick pay is a perfect example of this.

No well-run institution of this scope would fail to have clearly defined policies for its human resources procedures. The absence of these is a glaring example that perhaps that leadership was in place too long and the scope of the institution grew beyond its ability to manage and direct.

What SPC does not needed is even the slightest perception of a dynasty replacement. This is not a criticism of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, who is seeking the job of SPC president. He is a well-intentioned politician, but he is not an educator. The college does not need a politician any more than it needs an engineer or a medical doctor as its leader. It needs an experienced, dedicated and successful educator-administrator.

If we have learned something in the last 10 months it is that experience in the field is critical to success.

Richard W. Cope, Clearwater

Obama wants banks to hold up their end Dec. 15, story

Contradictory messages

Here we go again. Several years ago Congress, led by Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd, pushed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to increase mortgage loans to those who were clearly unqualified — often without income documentation. The surge in easy credit and housing demand helped create the housing bubble, and we all know how that turned out.

Now, Frank and Dodd are authoring financial regulations to tighten lending standards and punish the banks for a problem that they helped create, and the president is piling on by demanding increased lending.

The fact is that mortgage lenders have gone back to requiring the documented ability to repay the loan, and business loans require collateral, usually in the form of plant and equipment, inventory or receivables. Businesses that have collateral can still obtain loans.

However, many businesses are not seeking loans because they don't see the demand for their products, or they are uncertain about the effects of the pending health care and cap-and-trade legislation on their cost structure.

The president has no "real world" business experience on his resume, and few of his Cabinet members do. This results in demands that things be done from those who are creating obstacles to the desired business behavior.

Peter Ford, Tierra Verde

Please speak out

As a young person, I'm concerned about the state of the world, and want to see a fair and binding treaty on climate change come out of Copenhagen, as well as effective legislation here in the United States.

I, along with many activists, gathered for a candlelight vigil here in Tampa with citizens at 3,000 events worldwide. But it isn't enough. We need every voice to tell our global leaders and our senators to reduce our greenhouse gases to 350 parts per million — and meet what science demands.

Jamie Trahan, Tampa

Thursday letters: A greater check on power is needed at St. Petersburg College 12/16/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 16, 2009 6:43pm]
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