Board of Trustees > Meeting Archives > July 26, 2006 Minutes

The Florida State University Board of Trustees
Conference Call: Call In Number: 850-645-6338
Tallahassee, Florida
July 26, 2006
9:00 AM – 9:30 PM


Members Present: Trustees Derrick Brooks, Susie Busch-Transou, Jim Cobbe, June Duda, David Ford, Manny Garcia, Harold Knowles, Richard McFarlain, Ann McGee, Leslie Pantín and Jim Smith participated in the conference call.

Members Absent: Trustee Christopher Evans had an excused absence.


  1. Call to Order and Welcome

    Chairman Jim Smith welcomed everyone to the conference call. Trustee McFarlain made a motion to suspend the Board of Trustees’ Operating Procedure Section 203(b) to take up the items listed on the agenda and any supplemental materials faxed to each member. Trustee Brooks seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

  2. Collective Bargaining Committee Recommendation & Board Action

    Chairman Smith announced that public notice of the time, date and call-in number was appropriately published, and the conference call meeting was open to the public and was being conducted in accordance with Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law contained in Chapter 286, Florida Statutes. He explained that at the June 9, 2006 Board Meeting, the authority for an impasse hearing was delegated to a Board Collective Bargaining Committee. Chairman Smith said that the Board received the recommendation of the Committee and would not be taking public testimony. The sole purpose of the current Board meeting conference call was to make a final decision as the statutorily designated legislative body under section 447.203(10), Florida Statutes, on the impasse between the United Faculty of Florida (UFF) and University regarding merit salary increases for 2005-2006 only. Pursuant to section 447.403(4)(d), Florida Statutes, the full Board is to take action in the public interest, including the interest of the faculty involved, to resolve the disputed impasse issue.

    Chairman Smith reviewed the chronology of events leading up to the conference call: First, there was a written report dated July 13, 2006 which detailed the impasse public hearing held by the Board’s Collective Bargaining Committee on July 12, 2006. The report provides the chronology leading up to that hearing. Second, at the FSU Board of Trustees’ meeting of June 9, 2006, the Board directed that the Collective Bargaining Committee conduct a public hearing pursuant to section 447.403(4)(c), Florida Statutes. The purpose of that hearing was to permit representatives of the University and the UFF to explain their positions with respect to the rejected recommendations of the special magistrate. Third, on Wednesday, July 12, 2006, the Collective Bargaining Committee, composed of Trustees Jim Smith, Richard McFarlain, and Susie Busch-Transou, convened a public hearing. The hearing commenced at 11:00 a.m.; no UFF representatives appeared. The Committee waited approximately 15 minutes, and was then notified by FSU’s Chief Negotiator Mr. Mattimore that he had been informed that UFF would not appear. Fourth, in accordance with advice from FSU legal counsel Mr. Cramer, the hearing was commenced. FSU Counsel advised that there was no requirement for a party to appear at the hearing, that the Committee had been duly appointed by the full Board under the statute to conduct a public hearing and make recommendations, and that the hearing should proceed. Mr. Mattimore presented the University’s position. UFF did not appear, nor did it submit any additional written materials for the Committee to consider. Fifth, following the University’s presentation, the members of the Committee discussed the matter. After the discussion, the Committee unanimously voted to recommend that the FSU Board of Trustees deny additional merit pay increases to faculty compensation for FY 2005-2006. The Committee believed this action was in the public interest, including the interest of the faculty involved, and that it would resolve the disputed impasse issue. Finally, while the Committee agreed in its absolute support for the faculty, they concluded that they must, however, concur with the University administration’s view that deep budget cuts to academic and student programs would result if the University were required to produce the funds to provide an additional 1.5% merit increase for last year – 2005-2006.

    Chairman Smith said that he was told that UFF filed suit in the Circuit Court, challenging the constitutionality of the statute, which designates the university boards of trustees as the legislative body for purposes of resolving collective bargaining impasses. He said that there has not been any action by the court on the matter, nor has FSU been served. Chairman Smith said Betty Steffens, University General Counsel, advised him that the filing of the lawsuit does not affect the current meeting.

    Chairman Smith asked for a motion regarding the Collective Bargaining Committee’s recommendation that the Board deny additional merit pay increases to faculty compensation for 2005-2006. Trustee McFarlain made motion regarding the Collective Bargaining Committee’s recommendation that the Board deny additional merit pay increases to faculty compensation for 2005-2006. Trustee Garcia seconded the motion and Chairman Smith asked for discussion.

    Dr. Cobbe indicated that he had some remarks. First, he addressed his role on the Board. Dr. Cobbe stated that he as an employee of the University, obviously had a general interest in pay questions, which could potentially affect him, and this might suggest a conflict of interest. Fortunately, a colleague who is the faculty Board member at another University in the System raised this issue with the State Ethics Commission a couple of years ago, so he knows what the rules are. He said to have a conflict of interest, one must have a ‘special interest’ in a matter before the Board; to be a member of a large class that could be affected by a Board decision is not enough to rate as a conflict of interest – otherwise, of course, the student member would have a difficult time serving. Further, it is apparently the settled interpretation of Florida Ethics law that even when a Board member does have a conflict, so long as they declare the conflict they are still entitled to discuss and vote on the matter on which they have a conflict.

    Dr. Cobbe explained that he was a member of the Board because of the amendment to the Florida Constitution establishing the Board of Governors and redefining University Boards of Trustees, which specifies that the President of the Faculty Senate or equivalent body is a member of the Board of Trustees. At Florida State University, the Faculty Senate is a representative body of all tenured and tenure-track faculty. Those it represents form a very different group from the bargaining unit represented by the United Faculty of Florida. The latter excludes tenured and tenure-track faculty in most administrative positions and all those in the Colleges of Law and Medicine, but includes most other non-tenure-track faculty, who are about 39% of all salaried faculty. Thus although there is overlap between the two groups, the overlap amounts to probably less than half of all faculty. He said that his presumption was that he was elected to the office because the members of the Faculty Senate had reasonable confidence in his experience and judgment; he was not their delegate, but was there by virtue of office. Dr. Cobbe said that he held no brief for any union, or any particular group at all. He said that he interpreted his duty on the Board as being to exercise independent judgment, on the basis of knowledge and experience, in what he believed to be the best interests of the University and the people of the State of Florida. Dr. Cobbe stated that is what he had tried to do to this point, and what he planned to at the meeting. He added that his experience at the University was not trivial; he is a full professor, and has been here thirty years, during which he served for six years as an associate dean, a year as an interim dean, and nine years as a department chair.

    Dr. Cobbe discussed the issue before the Board. He said that when the BOT was acting as the “legislative body” for purposes of Public Employment Collective Bargaining Law, according to PERC its duty was to hear recommendations from each negotiating party, and “then take the action it thinks is in the best interests of all concerned on each issue before it.” Dr. Cobbe said that “All concerned” he interpreted as being the University as an institution, and the people of the State of Florida. He said that he attended the public hearing before the committee on July 12, 2006 at which only the administration made a presentation. Dr. Cobbe said that he found the presentation both not responsive to the substance of the special magistrate’s report and deeply troubling. He mentioned two items of concern. First, the presentation stated, according to the minutes, that the recommendation “would have cost $300,000 to $350,000 in this budget year and $1.8 million in 2006-07 and every subsequent year.” Dr. Cobbe said that he has been trying to get an explanation of how that statement can be internally consistent, when one sixth of $1.8 million is $300,000 and the recommendation would only be implemented in FY 2006 for two months, and two months for most of which many bargaining unit members are either off the payroll for the Summer or paid at reduced FTE. So far there has been no explanation, and so perhaps one of those numbers has to be wrong. Second, Dr. Cobbe said the presentation asserted that the special magistrate “reviewed [merit pay] as a nonrecurring event,” an assertion that was not supported by his report. He said that to suggest that a special magistrate in a PERC mandated impasse proceeding ignored the recurrent nature of the cost of a wage award is, to be blunt, ridiculous and gratuitously insulting to the special magistrate. Dr. Cobbe said that he did not understand why a University representative would make such an insulting and unsupported assertion, and that he was personally offended to be associated with it in any way. Everybody concerned seems agreed that merit pay is, to quote the special magistrate, “a necessary component of a total salary package.” He said the issue is whether this particular recommendation can be afforded, particularly after the fiscal year to which it applies is already over. Dr. Cobbe indicated that he believed that not only bargaining unit faculty, but all employees, and especially staff, should have the opportunity to receive salary increments for meritorious performance as frequently as possible, and at least every year or so. He was pleased with the reclassification scheme approved for staff at the June meeting that includes merit pay as a necessary component. Also, it has been the consistent practice of the University administration to award merit increases to out-of-unit faculty that roughly match those made to in- unit faculty. Dr. Cobbe stressed that the affordability question really applies to the cost of 1.5% of total payroll, not 1.5% of faculty bargaining unit payroll. His reading of budget documents suggested that for the non-medical E&G budget total payroll expenditure in 2005-06 was less than $296 million, implying 1.5% would cost somewhat under $4.5 million in a full year. He indicated that he was not discriminating against the College of Medicine by omitting them, it is just that they are separately funded by the legislature.

    Dr. Cobbe said that the question becomes, can the University afford to add close to $4.5 million to recurrent payroll in 2006-07, for a settlement of 2005-06 wage negotiations? He said the fairly conservative analysis of 2006-07 E&G non- medical appropriations and projected tuition revenue made by the administration concluded that there was an increase in non-earmarked recurrent funds of a bit over $9.2 million. Thus, 1.5% of total payroll would take close to half of the increment in recurrent non-medical funds available for allocation, which he believed might be too big of a chunk of what is available. Dr. Cobbe said that the University does have other needs. There will be more students, and they cannot all be accommodated indefinitely by simply increasing class sizes; the earmarked utilities appropriation was insufficient to cover all projected utility increases; targeted cluster hiring is an initiative that has been given high priority; the library definitely needs more funds; and there are other more minor wants and needs. He said, however, that if the Board is concerned about the interests of “all concerned,” it should be concerned first and foremost about maintaining the quality of the institution we have, and that means as first priority maintaining the effectiveness of current human resources and their full commitment to the common objective of improving the quality of the University. Dr. Cobbe said that there are some employees, including some faculty, who are not deserving of higher pay than they get now; but they are not going to qualify for merit increases. He said the Board needs to worry a lot about the morale of the majority of employees, which translates into their attitude, commitment, and effort; and about retaining those employees who do deserve higher pay. Dr. Cobbe said that the Board has repeatedly said that salary levels, and specifically merit increases, are a high priority. He asked: “Well, do we mean it?” Dr. Cobbe said that he strongly believes that the Board needed to put some money where their mouth was, before faculty and staff became completely and utterly convinced that the Board’s statements about pay are just empty words and sheer hypocrisy. He lamented that many employees were very close to that conclusion already, and one thing the University definitely did not need was more cynicism on the part of employees. He said that the Board needed employees to feel part of a team and to be committed to common goals.

    Dr. Cobbe indicated that he has sympathy with the view that the budget is tight. It is relatively tight, though there has been much tighter, and there is never enough money for everything that would be desirable. He said that it is important for the Board to remember that the choice before it is not a binary one between the special magistrate’s recommendation on the one hand, or rejecting it and doing nothing on the other. Dr. Cobbe said that the Board’s duty is to “take the action that is in the best interest of all concerned;” and is constrained in that action only by the budget and the law, and the action is entirely up to it. It is the Board that sets priorities and decides this issue, not anybody else. He said that he was deeply tempted to offer an alternative motion, somehow splitting the difference between the special magistrate’s recommendation and doing nothing. Dr. Cobbe said that after much thought and non-negligible lobbying he decided not to do that, mostly because 2005-06 is now over, and it is far better to have the increment in recurrent funds available to finance 2006-07 merit salary increases, than to pre-empt ongoing negotiations in a non-bargained way. However, he said that he planned to abstain on the motion, with his reason for doing so being his disgust at what he considered to be the intellectual dishonesty of the administration’s statements rejecting the special magistrate’s recommendation. Dr. Cobbe thanked the Board for listening to his strongly felt comments about the issue.

    Chairman Smith encouraged Trustee Cobbe to get with whoever he needs to within the administration or Mr. Mattimore to have the specific questions that he raised answered. He said that the purpose of the current meeting was very narrow. Chairman Smith asked for a roll call vote, which was as follows:

    Derrick Brooks -- Yes
    Susie Busch-Transou -- Yes
    Jim Cobbe -- Abstain
    June Duda -- Yes
    David Ford -- Yes
    Manny Garcia -- Yes
    Harold Knowles -- Yes
    Richard McFarlain -- Yes
    Ann McGee -- Yes
    Leslie Pantín -- Yes
    Jim Smith -- Yes

    Chaiman Smith noted that the motion passed with one abstention. So the Board adopted the Collective Bargaining Committee’s recommendation and denied additional merit pay increases to faculty compensation for 2005. Dr. Abele announced that there was a tentative 2006-07 UFF Collective Bargaining negotiation agreement. The agreement will go to the UFF bargaining unit for ratification and then to the Board of Trustees.

  3. Adjournment

    The meeting adjourned at 9:32 AM.