In the midst of UCF President Dale Whittaker offering his resignation to the Board of Trustees, the office of the president was pressured to write positive reviews of Whittaker, an employee close to the matter said on condition of anonymity.
Subordinate employees to Vice President of Communications Grant Heston and Assistant Vice President of Strategic Communications & Marketing Christine Dellart were pressured to express positive reviews before public comment to the Board of Trustees after Whittaker announced his resignation offer, the source said. The Thursday at 10 a.m. BOT meeting would include a staged act by the UCF President’s Office where a named employee would step up to comment publicly and cry in support of President Whittaker, according to the tipster.
At the Board of Trustees meeting, the President’s Office spoke publicly and one staff member gave an emotional account of their support for the president, in line with what the UCF employee provided in the hours before the meeting.
A close circle of staff who supported University of Central Florida president Dale Whittaker during his presidential campaign received up to $50,000 in pay raises, the employee told Knight News Thursday morning. Heston and Dellart both received pay raises.
UCF said the following employees received both a promotion and a pay raise, but did not deny the allegation by another UCF employee that they received the pay raise because of their support for the president:
- Grant Heston: $50,000
- Thad Seymour: $50,000
- Christine Dellert Mullon: $30,000
- Tom Hope and Patrick D[…]: $30,000
- Mike Kilbride: ~$59,000
- Laura Spuliano: $28,000
- Margaret Cole (General Counsel Scott Cole’s Wife): $22,500
While UCF did not deny the allegation, UCF said there was no “basis to support any suggestion that the promotions and associated raises were in any way connected with Dr. Whittaker’s candidacy,” a university spokesman said. “All of these promotions and associated pay raises were approved by the Human Resources Department.”
“With regard to the meeting today, President’s Office staff members planned their participation and wrote their remarks before telling their managers about their intentions.”
Knight News, however, continues to hear from multiple sources who believe UCF is playing favorites with Whittaker’s past supporters. One source points to a recent posting for a deputy chief of staff for strategic initiatives as an example of a job created that could keep the president’s supporter in power, they said.
Publicly available 2017-2018 Salaries:
Publicly available Fall 2018 Salaries (Aug ’18-April ’19):
An October 2015 article from the Orlando Sentinel stated that Grant Heston, VP communication/marketing, received a $7,786 increase in salary that year. Old: $217,214, New: $225,000, Increase: 4%.
The source alleges that Human Resources was ‘not comfortable’ playing along but followed through with the actions.
Knight News asked UCF to comment on other information we’ve learned from our sources. Check back as we update the story for more information as we can.