Stock photo - New Colbourn Hall MA

A Florida House committee report released Thursday confirmed that UCF improperly transferred as much as $85 million of Educational and General funds to university construction accounts for unauthorized uses.

The Public Integrity and Ethics committee met Thursday to review its findings, which determined university administrators failed to disclose the misused funds in a timely manner once discovered.

This scandal has led to the firing of four employees and the resignations of former Board of Trustees Chairman Marcos Marchena on Jan. 31 and former UCF President Dale Whittaker on Feb. 21.

The university had previously hired Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, an independent law firm, to investigate the issue. BCLP discovered $38 million of misused funds was used by the university to construct Trevor Colbourn Hall. 

On Jan. 18, Whittaker admitted that in all, $85 million worth of projects were “either built, or planned to be built, with inappropriate funds.”

Following the announcement of the additional illegal funds, the UCF Board of Trustees decided not to extend the investigation during a meeting on Jan. 24, but on Jan. 31, the Board of Governors voted unanimously to take over the investigation.

The staff report determined that this problem of misspending was due to a variety of things: “significant deficiencies” in the planning process, "a lack of training regarding the trustees," “fiduciary responsibilities” and a lack oversight by the state university system.

The 26-page report is based on interviews with current and former UCF officials and employees as well as a review of documents including emails, budgets and reports to the Board of Governors.

“I think this report is fair and accurate and it’s not unnecessarily harsh or inappropriately lenient,” said Tom Leek, Republican from Ormond Beach who chairs the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee. “I think it strikes the right tone and I think it’s supportable in every respect.”

Leek and the committee made multiple recommendations as well, including “strict adherence to planning,” additional training for the trustees and a reform of “certain” board of governors’ practices.

“I want to close the book on this unfortunate chapter in UCF history,” Leek said.

Some members of the committee were clear on how they felt about UCF’s misspending.

"It was a violation of the law," Rep. David Smith, Republican from Winter Springs, said.

While some were set in stone with their position, others were more lenient while still holding the university to high standards.

“We do expect bigger, greater things from UCF," Rep. Tracie Davis, Democrat from Jacksonville, said. "We also expect greater accountability and transparency from UCF."

During the committee meeting Thursday, UCF's interim President Thad Seymour made an appearance in front of the Florida House and offered the university's “unyielding” commitment to help find a solution.

"We will do that by strengthening our operations and rebuilding trust," Seymour told the committee. "I promise we will make this right. We will make you proud of UCF."

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