Within hours of KnightNews.com publishing its video investigation showing the world class, five star Disney area resort where UCF SGA President Michael Kilbride decided to take his staff on a luxurious retreat, more segments of the surrounding UCF community are investigating.
WFTV Channel 9 Reporter Liz Artz confronted Kilbride about his decision to spend $8,000 on a weekend in luxury — courtesy of UCF student fees — at a time when tuition and fees are skyrocketing and so many students’ parents are suffering from a loss of job in this tough economy.
Kilbride did not apologize.
Instead, he defended the $8,000 weekend as “an adequate expense” because it only represents “.0005 percent of the overall student government budget.”
That money could have gone to scholarships instead, KnightNews.com’s Andrew Stein pointed out during an interview with WFTV in which he gave expert analysis to the station regarding the spending scandal and outrage from students. The story has been “most popular” on WFTV.com for quite some time today.
Because Kilbride has refused to conduct on camera, in person or over the phone interviews with KnightNews.com, we were there during Kilbride’s interview with Artz and shot video of it.
In the interview, the controversy about Trustee Kilbride taking free Disney tickets came up.
Artz asked Kilbride: Is it against UCF’s ethics policy to take gifts?
Kilbride said, “I can’t comment on that.”
“Do you know?,” Artz asked.
“I don’t.” Kilbride responded.
“You don’t know?” Artz confirmed.
“I don’t,” Kilbride responded again.
“So you’re the student body president but you don’t know,” Artz said.
“What?” Kilbride said, appearing to get flustered. “Oh, I the — we did not violate the ethics policy in receiving those tickets.”
Artz then begun trying to point out how she saw a link, apparently the same one we saw, suggesting UCF Board of Trustee members — like Kilbride — can’t get gifts such as Disney tickets without a proper disclosure.
Kilbride became defensive, refused to answer her question and cut her off by saying, “You can talk to University General Counsel or News and Information about that, if it’s in regard to University policy. They’d be more than happy to comment.”
Meanwhile, KnightNews.com still hasn’t gotten a response to our questions we sent last week to Kilbride about the “retreat.” Before publishing our investigative report, KnightNews.com gave Kilbride several chances to respond directly to our question — a “yes” or “no” would have been acceptable.
Kilbride refused to be interviewed by us in phone or in person on this topic, and insisted on having SGA Chief of Information Shane Chism — who we’re told students pay $550 bi-weekly for work performed in an unprecedented third floor Student Union office, typically reserved for University administrators — communicate with KnightNews.com via e-mail.
In one of the e-mail’s to Chism before KnightNews.com published the story, KnightNews.com wrote:
“I asked President Kilbride a question about whether he thought the recent SGA retreat – including the meals and transportation to Disney – was worth the students’ money.
“Although I appreciate hearing from you, it was President Kilbride who was elected to his position, and it is he who the students want to hear from when their tuition dollars are spent. We’d prefer to come conduct an interview with President Kilbride on camera regarding this, or at least over the phone. I think the students would like to hear from him. Please let us know when he can make time to schedule an interview, or should we call his secretary?”
Kilbride responded to that e-mail by writing, “The response of Mr. Chism is the response of my office and the Student Government Association. His reply speaks for me and SGA.”
When WFTV interviewed Kilbride Monday, KnightNews.com was there. We captured video of the interview. When it ended, Kilbride promised to let the reporter get some video of him walking around to use in her story. However, Kilbride apparently snuck out a back door of the office and escaped through the service elevator in the back of the Union, to apparently avoid carrying out his his word to the reporter — which would have put him in the position of being asked questions from KnightNews.com as well once WFTV was finished shooting b-roll video.
Click here to see how Orange County Commissioners Linda Stewart and Bill Segal weighed in on this situation.
See our exclusive investigation on the SGA retreat being called “a misuse of funds”