UPDATE: 12 P.M. THURSDAY: Torpey sent an email to KnightNews.com this morning saying she would look into our questions about the Zimride program. She also sent links to two news outlets who reported conflicting information on Zimride’s annual cost.
Even after Kayla Torpey, SGA’s public relations specialist and spokesperson, said SGA received “media training” from UCF administrators, she has so far refused to answer a list of serious questions posed by KnightNews.com — many of which were posed well into last week.
Among the questions Torpey has ignored is one regarding why SGA wasn’t up front with students about its mysterious new carpooling program called Zimride. KnightNews.com has learned SGA made an interdepartmental transfer of $10,000 in student Activity and Service fees to UCF’s Parking Services to administer the program — but SGA never mentioned this transfer in any of its press releases to us on the program.
The closest Torpey came to addressing anything about cost to KnightNews.com was in her Aug. 30 press release where one sentence pointed out that “SGA and UCF Parking and Transportation Services began offering the service for free to the entire UCF community in late June and hope to attract hundreds of new users this semester.”
Of course, according to information leaked to KnightNews.com, the service wasn’t “free” — it cost $10,000 in student fees.
KnightNews.com asked Torpey whether she was sure it was legal for SGA to transfer such a large amount of student Activity and Service fees to parking services, which is funded through “Traffic and parking fines, charges for parking decals, and Transportation Access Fees,” as outlined in Section 1009.24, Florida Statutes, regulating state university student fees.
Torpey has refused to answer the question about whether the massive transfer of student fees was legal. She hasn’t even responded to say she’d bother to look into it, despite being paid to handle media requests. Torpey’s refusal to even address the question comes after KnightNews.com has pointed out UCF has been lambasted by state officials over the past few years in state audits for shoveling millions to its athletics program, even though state law didn’t allow it.
The most recent audit summary confirms “The University had previously made $9.4 million of loans to the UCF Athletics Association, Inc., a University direct-support organization, without specific legal authority to do so. As of June 30, 2009, the Association had not returned the $9.4 million to the University, although the University has set up a repayment schedule for these loans.” (Read full audit with UCF response here).
The most recent audit also criticized UCF for transferring $2 million of public money to its private Foundation, when state law doesn’t allow it. It also complains about UCF’s practice of slamming international students with an extra fee, without statutory authority to do so. UCF responded with a legal analysis disagreeing with the auditor’s findings.
Torpey’s decision to remain silent on SGA President Michael Kilbride administration’s decision to fund Zimride without disclosing the cost to students comes as a fight is intensifying between Kilbride and SGA senators over whether Kilbride has the right to shut senators out of an electronic database which tracks his spending.
In the past, SGA had relied on what lawyers have called an over broad interpretation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, known better as FERPA, to justify its policies of taking days to release public information. However, in Kilbride’s dispute with senators over shutting them out of easily tracking his spending, we’re told Kilbride has made it clear the decision was made to stop financial information from being leaked to the press. In fact, KnightNews.com obtained e-mail proof that Kilbride shut out the senate just hours after KnightNews.com exposed he spent $8,000 on a luxury retreat.
Students, like Brittny Knowles, are disgusted by his spending.
“I’ve heard of (Zimride),” Knowles posted on KnightNews.com’s Facebook page. “Never used it… Seems kinda creepy to me.”
After KnightNews.com told Knowles about the information we received that Zimride cost students $10,000, she didn’t hold back when we asked what she thought about it.
“Same thing I think about SGA having an elected president that is wasting my money on stupid ass ipads and $8,000 desks….. Its BULLS**T!!,” she posted, without the **. “I mean for 10 grand why not just throw in another 10 grand and hire someone to valet park my car so I dont have to look for parking for an hour lol.”
Torpey’s decision to completely ignore the questions about spending $10,000 on a program students say they don’t use also comes after she admitted to KnightNews.com she just received media training from the UCF administration.
That media training apparently included implementing a new policy of taping all interaction with SGA officials and reporters, because after KnightNews.com contacted SGA Attorney General Nick Gurney to meet to gather information related to his Know Your Rights campaign, Torpey showed up with a tape recorder.
Torpey was rolling as Gurney made a quick presentation of his program, even though the meeting was informal, and KnightNews.com didn’t bring any audio or video recording equipment of its own.
Unlike the Zimride program, which is prominently displayed on the SGA homepage, the Know Your Rights campaign is not. That’s why KnightNews.com made the effort to meet in person to gather information for the story. Another reason KnightNews.com tried gathering information is because even if a student is able to find the Know Your Rights link under the About SGA section, clicking on it brings you to a blank page, with no information obviously available.
If you want to anonymously report corruption in the SGA office, you can do so anonymously by clicking here. We will thoroughly investigate all reports.