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News Clips 04/17/2013
Controversial Valencia College trustee ousted
Source: Orlando Sentinel, 04/15/13
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By Denise-Marie Ordway and Aaron Deslatte
A controversial member of the Valencia College board of trustees was passed over for reappointment today by a Florida Senate committee.
The surprise action by the Ethics and Elections committee effectively removes Valencia trustees Chairwoman Bertica Cabrera Morris.
Today was the last time the committee will meet during the current legislative session, which essentially means she will not have another chance to get the Senate confirmation she needs to remain on the board.
Morris, a trustee at Valencia since 2005, has faced sharp criticism for questioning how Valencia President Sandy Shugart has been running the school, which was named as one of America's top community colleges in late 2011.
Shugart has accused Morris of trying to micromanage him and also trying to personally choose who the college would use as lobbyists and business contractors.
Meanwhile, Morris, who has been chairwoman since last year, has insisted that she has only been trying to make improvements and generate new money so Valencia does not have to raise tuition.
She said she was surprised and disappointed.
"Some folks did not like my questions or my questioning," Morris told the Sentinel after the Senate action. "This is an obvious result of that." Shugart was not available for comment.
At the start of what was a routine Senate confirmation hearing, committee Chairman Jack Latvala said Morris' name was being withdrawn "in expectation of her impending resignation." He quickly added that he also had the authority to drop her nomination to serve on the Valencia board of trustees.
After the meeting, Latvala declined to elaborate on why Morris was not confirmed.
"That's just the way we chose to do it," he said, adding that if she does not resign "she won't be on the board anymore."
Morris said she already had intended to resign later this year after the board of trustees set tuition for the next school year. Her last day likely will be in May or June.
State Sen. Andy Gardiner, an Orlando Republican who is slated to lead the Chamber in 2014 and is one of its most powerful members, said not confirming Morris was "the right thing to do."
Gardiner serves on the Ethics and Elections committee. He also serves on the board of directors for the Valencia Foundation, the school's fundraising arm.
"Given the things that are coming out down there,' " he said, "there's just a growing sense that it was time for change."
Latvala was tight-lipped about who, specifically, wanted her gone.
"We have 40 members of the Senate, and I'm one of the guys who tries to involve my colleagues. They help make decisions," Latvala said. "There's very few of those cases, but there are cases where people felt that some of these folks weren't serving in a manner in which they ought to be. That may have been one."