Gov. Rick Scott yesterday announced the reappointment of Ava Parker and the appointments of Joseph Caruncho and Thomas Kuntz to the State University System’s Board of Governors. Caruncho, a Palmetto Bay native, is the co-founder and COO of Preferred Care Partners Inc., and previously worked as a corporate health care attorney. As we’ve previously reported, Preferred Care poured money into Republican Party coffers last year, donating at least $190,000 in total.
Kuntz, of Winter Park, has acted as president and chief executive officer of SunTrust Banks Inc. since 1999. SunTrust has also contributed to the Florida Republican Party in the past, according to data compiled by Follow the Money.
Parker, the chair of the Board of Governors, generated controversy when she sent a letter last month to the St. Petersburg Times. On Dec. 24, Parker penned a letter to the editor, writing that USF Polytechnic President Judy Genshaft left the members of the Board of Governors in the dark about who would replace the school’s recently fired chancellor, Marshall Goodman. (Goodman had been mired in controversy over attempts to grant USF Polytechnic independence from the main USF campus and was accused of mishandling school funds.)
At least two lawmakers — state Sens. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, and Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland — found Parker’s letter to be troubling. “First of all, we question why you, in your role as chairwoman, would write a letter to the editor, particularly without a full vote of the BOG or unanimous consent to do so,” wrote the two. “Secondly, the BOG was established to ‘operate, regulate, control and be responsible for the management of the whole State University System’ with independence from political pressures and implications. It seems your actions are a kneejerk reaction to those political pressures.”
Just yesterday, a group of students protested outside the Board of Governors’ meeting in Tallahassee, arguing that the board is not listening to their concerns. Because of recent tuition hikes and cutbacks to the state’s Bright Futures program, many feel that greater student representation is needed on the Board, which is comprised of 17 members, only one of whom is a student.
The Board is currently looking into reforms for the state’s higher education system. Scott’s appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.