JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida State College at Jacksonville's Board of Trustees voted to terminate Dr. Steven Wallace's contract Tuesday after learning his actions while in office are under now investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney's Office.
Wallace served as president of the college from 1997 until he stepped down from office in 2012 amid controversy surrounding student Pell Grants. At the time, the board approved an exit agreement that he would serve as an administrator for the college through the end of 2013, and granted him nearly $336,000 for his accrued vacation time.
In October, Gov. Rick Scott requested that the state's Inspector General's Office review all of the college's expenses, and develop a report that now includes several recommendations for improving documentation, controls and policies. School officials say that have been working to implement the changes since the report was released. During that review, the OIG also determined that Wallace may have violated state ethics laws, by accepting gifts and trips with various community organizations without reporting them to school officials. This portion of the investigation has now been referred to the Florida Commission on Ethics.
But now the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is also involved in the investigation.
During their review, Chief Inspector Melinda Miguel and her team repeatedly questioned FSCJ employees about Wallaces expense-tracking practices. Various employees commented on his procedures for tracking compensatory time that they believe he wasn't eligible for.
The use of compensatory time, school officials told the board Tuesday, is not college policy and was a term new to many of them. Their internal investigation revealed that Dr. Wallace's administrative staff used a document that his office created to track the days that he worked, but was otherwise scheduled to be out of the office. Dr. Wallace would then take other days off to make up for that time days he termed compensatory.
Over the 15-year period, school officials says Wallace's records show he worked 196 days, and by the time the record was discovered, he had utilized 172.5 of them, rather than cash in on his allotted vacation days according to school officials.
Per Wallace's contract, there was no maximum amount of vacation days that he could accrue annually, and when he left office last year, he was paid for the entire amount of days at his current rate, which equaled nearly $336,000.
"The IG's office determined that if you have the opportunity to accrue leave without limit, and eventually be paid out for it, then there would appear to be incentive to use your compensatory time and save your leave time for payout," explained the Board's General Counsel, Jeanne M. Miller.
Board members learned that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement became involved in the investigation weeks ago, but that was not revealed in the previously released IG report at the request of law enforcement officials.
"I'm flabbergasted," said Board Member Jimmie Mayo moments after the board voted to terminate the remainder of Wallace's contract. "He accomplished a great many good things, and I'm very sad to see that it ends this way."
Interim President Dr. Willis N. Holcombe would not comment on his own thoughts regarding the Board's board's vote, but said he wants the move forward.
"I hope to put this behind us, frankly, and move on. We need to understand the lessons learned here about internal controls and governance, and pay better attention to the rules. I want students and faculty to know that the college itself is in great shape. These issues are largely administrative issues and board issues, and the board dealt with them today."
The FDLE says the investigation has since been turned over to the State Attorney's Office, which would not comment because it is still ongoing.