Knight News' Lawyer Justin Hemlepp

The lawyer who represents Knight News has sent a letter to several high-ranking University of Central Florida officials regarding transparency concerns about the presidential search committee.

In the letter, Justin Hemlepp tells UCF that he wants to ensure transparency as the committee searches for a new university president and assigns a new role to President John Hitt.


Since UCF’s announcement that Hitt will step down next year, Knight News has faced several hurdles that have made it difficult to report on the latest developments.

On Oct. 24 and again on Nov. 2, Knight News requested public records from UCF, “pertaining to Hitt’s replacement including, but not limited to, records concerning work or payments Hitt would receive as a result of his retiring.”

Knight News did not receive any documents pertaining to this request until after Hitt and the board of Trustees had agreed to Hitt’s new $300,000 contract.

UCF released the first drafts of the contract, and other documents related to this agreement Wednesday after receiving Hemlepp’s letter.

Hemlepp argued that not only has Knight News faced several roadblocks regarding the search committee, but also the committee has made decisions “outside of the Sunshine.”

Trustee Self’s Search Committee Picks, Given to Marchena Outside the Sunshine

“Trustee [William] Self, for example, submitted to the chairman four names for consideration and pointed out he would be available at a forthcoming football game to discuss preferences,” Hemlepp wrote. “Two of Self’s four recommendations were selected the very next day. Trustee [Nick] Larkins, who is president of UCF’s Student Government Association, wrote to the Chairman [Marcos Marchena] expressing disappointment in not being selected for the search committee despite representations supposedly made in a previous out-of-the-Sunshine Discussion.”

In the letter, Hemlepp expressed his concern that the committee was selected without any public oversight raised questions regarding the members of committee.

“Why is the student boy’s elected representative not on the committee? Why are there so few UCF Alumni? Why are so few students on the committee? Should Eastern Florida State College be represented?” the letter said.

To conclude the letter, Hemlepp explained why Knight News has an issue with the Board of Trustees conducting meetings via teleconference.

“Conducting the meetings in that manner frustrates the public’s ability to comment on the search,” Hemlepp said. “In addition, Knight News requested information from UCF concerning how to attend or participate in these meetings, and to date it appears that request has been ignored.”

Read Hemlepp’s full letter, below:


Read the email Trustee Self sent to BOT Chair Marchena:

From: William Self []
Sent: Friday, October 27, 2017 7:06 PM
Subject: names for presidential search

Hi Marcos,

Attached is a word document with four faculty names and a short description of the core reasons I am recommending them for the search committee.
I will be at the game tomorrow if you would like to discuss, or you can call me at 321-[redacted] (cell) as well. I have worked on this for a couple of days and have confidence these faculty would serve well and put the best interests of UCF first in all their work on the committee. I would also volunteer myself – but I understand the need to limit the committee to three trustees given the way the process works.

Best regards,


William T. Self
Associate Professor
Associate Director of Undergraduate Affairs
Burnett School of Biomedical Science
College of Medicine

Chair, Faculty Senate
Member, UCF Board of Trustees
University of Central Florida