The president of Florida’s First Amendment Foundation is reacting to transparency concerns raised in a Knight News report over how UCF handled public records requests leading up to interviews with presidential candidates, which began today.

After receiving records requests for records received by its private search firm, UCF told Knight News it would provide weekly updates by sending “all of the materials received to date” on “each Monday during the application process.”


However, follow-up requests Knight News made revealed that UCF sat on certain records for weeks rather than providing all of them each Monday. UCF apparently disagreed that a resume sent to the firm expressing interest in the position qualified as “all materials received to date.”

However, because Florida’s Public Record Law doesn’t require government agencies to fulfill requests for documents that don’t exist at the time of the request, FAF President Barbara Petersen said she doesn’t think UCF violated the records law “simply because it didn’t fulfill its promise to provide Knight News with all of the materials received” prospectively.

“Having said that, though, the university made a promise that you relied on and then didn’t fulfill the promise. That stinks,” Petersen added.

Throughout UCF’s search process, Laurie Wilder with Parker Executive Search has repeatedly pointed to Florida’s open government laws as the reason why candidates wait until the last minute to apply.

Petersen said that while she had no idea whether search firms are overstating the open government law’s effect, she “wouldn’t be surprised to learn that a candidate is being coached to wait until the last minute to avoid disclosure. Such coaching puts other candidates at a disadvantage, doesn’t it?”

Emails showed Parker Executive received a resume from one candidate in January, but that he never sent his official letter of intent to apply until after a vice president with the firm confirmed that she thought he was “an extremely viable candidate” after she discussed his “background with members of the Board!”

UCF has not explained when that discussion took place, or, more importantly, how such a discussion complied with Florida’s open meeting laws, known as Florida’s Sunshine Law.

The hunt for President Hitt’s replacement will continue Friday morning, when UCF will interview the remaining four candidates. Below, see video of Thursday’s interviews, where Knight News was present and Facebook lived all of the action:

Matthew Wilson:

Search Committee interviews final 8 candidates: Matthew Wilson

Posted by on Thursday, February 22, 2018

Dale Whittaker :

UCF Presidential Search: Dale Whittaker

Posted by on Thursday, February 22, 2018

UCF Presidential Search: Dale Whittaker

Posted by on Thursday, February 22, 2018

James Dean:

UCF Search Committee: James Dean

Posted by on Thursday, February 22, 2018

Presidential search: James Dean

Posted by on Thursday, February 22, 2018


Kelvin Droegemeier:

UCF Presidential Search: Kelvin Droegemeier

Posted by on Thursday, February 22, 2018


The final 4 candidates will be interviewed Friday starting at 8:30 A.M..