Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Friday, January 21, 2005

Lawsuit Takes Aim At Universities Board

Dec. 22, 2004

Lawsuit Takes Aim At Universities Board


TALLAHASSEE - The Board of Governors shirked its authority to oversee Florida's public universities, failing to act when lawmakers funded pet projects without board review, a lawsuit filed here Tuesday charges.
Filed in Leon County Circuit Court, the suit also challenges laws passed this year funding an Alzheimer's research center at the University of South Florida and a chiropractic school at Florida State University, neither of which the board reviewed.

The suit, brought by Floridians for Constitutional Integrity, states that the board failed to exercise authority given it by a 2002 state constitutional amendment. Amendment 11, which voters passed 61 percent to 39 percent, handed the board broad power to oversee operations at the state's 11 public universities. That includes setting tuition and establishing new academic programs.

Officials at FSU and the Johnnie B. Byrd Sr. Alzheimer's Center and Research Institute, in Tampa, said Tuesday the lawsuit won't derail their plans.

``It is an unfortunate and ill- advised attempt to tell the Legislature what to do,'' said Huntington Potter, the Byrd institute's chief executive officer.

``It's a good project,'' he said. ``The Legislature knew it was a good project, and this lawsuit is not going to interfere with that.''

The Alzheimer's institute is not subject to board review because it does not offer degree programs, Potter said. Its relationship to the University of South Florida is limited to leasing land on USF's Tampa campus, where a research facility will be built, he said.

At a news conference in Tallahassee on Tuesday, a bipartisan group of former state officials and educators blasted Florida's higher education oversight system as a banana republic rife with political gamesmanship. It charged that lawmakers pushed through favored academic programs, bypassing the Board of Governors.

Amendment 11 passed ``to prevent the political intrusion that had been so prevalent in the past,'' said E.T. York, chairman of Floridians for Constitutional Integrity and a former chancellor of the state university system.

``Two years ago, Florida voters designated the state university system off-limits when it came to politics,'' York said. ``Yet this demand by voters continues to be ignored.''

York cited appropriations of $15 million a year to the Byrd institute and $9 million annually for FSU's chiropractic school.

The Alzheimer's center was pushed by former House Speaker Johnnie Byrd. The chiropractic school has been championed by Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Treasure Island, a former Senate majority leader. It also has the backing of former House Speaker John Thrasher, chairman of FSU's board of trustees.

Carolyn Roberts, the Board of Governors chairwoman, said the group, which began meeting in January 2003, is overseeing Florida schools as voters directed.

``We've been an emerging board, and in a short period of time we've moved to full implementation of the constitutional amendment,'' Roberts said.

She said the board is scheduled to consider on Jan. 27 FSU's application to open a chiropractic school.

The review will be impartial and won't be influenced by the lawsuit, said John Dasburg, the board's vice chairman.

``This board will not be pressured by something like this,'' Dasburg said. ``I would hope that the shadow of the lawsuit would not darken that process.''

Thrasher, who as House speaker helped craft the overhaul of Florida's higher education system that scrapped the Board of Regents, said the suit ``kind of smacks of sour grapes'' from officials who were in power when that board ran the higher education system.

Gov. Jeb Bush told reporters in Tallahassee on Tuesday he was hard-pressed to understand the reason for the lawsuit.

``I don't think anybody disagrees - at least our office doesn't disagree, and the Board of Governors doesn't disagree - with Mr. York and his friends that the Board of Governors has powers embedded in the constitution that are significant,'' Bush said.

Just because the board has those powers doesn't mean it has to use them, the governor said.

Jones, a chiropractor and state senator from Pinellas County, said plans for an FSU chiropractic school were under way long before the Board of Governors was created in 2002.

A court challenge won't help things, Jones said.

``You don't get a long way when you file lawsuits,'' he said. ``You don't make a lot of friends.''