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Through public records requests, we forced the release of several documents Florida State College at Jacksonville sought to withhold: the wrongdoing investigation of a top executive who was also a VP at a college in New Jersey, and the five-figure bonuses given annually to most of the college's top brass. We also used Florida's public records laws to get expense reports and emails that showed little oversight on spending and infighting among board members divided over what action to take. Board members for the most part had little public discussion about their votes. Our reporting on the expenses, possible Sunshine violations and problems in the college's awarding of financial aid led to two state investigations into the college's foundation spending and overall finances.
What started as a look at problems in the financial aid department led to a widespread review of college operational issues and spending that angered taxpayers and frustrated students. Through several months of reviewing records and rooting out sources, we found that the college had almost no controls on the president's spending and the board offered little oversight. We learned that this was common throughout the state after we reviewed all presidential contracts in Florida - and found lots of big-money perks. Our stories prompted two consulting reviews by the college and two statewide investigations, one from the inspector general into the president's spending and a second from the Florida College System into FSCJ's finances. The president and two other top-level leaders left the college, and reforms are expected from the Legislature this year.