Two key administrators who resigned from the University of South Florida Polytechnic campus are among two dozen people interviewed in a recent investigation into possible improprieties on campus.
Samantha Lane, director of marketing and communications, and Maggie M. Mariucci, director of development and government, said working conditions at Poly had become intolerable for them.
The environment "has become hostile and destructive and it continually progresses to levels beyond imaginable," Lane wrote in her resignation letter Thursday.
Mariucci called it "toxic."
USF released this week results of an investigation into alleged financial improprieties at USF Poly, ranging from the violation of contracting rules on a $400,000 audio/video installation to willful circumvention of spending policies.
In one case, a soda dispensing machine was improperly described as "equipment rental" to obtain state funding, USF said.
The investigation began with anonymous complaints made to USF officials in February.
The first phases concluded this month with officials recommending the dismissal of two people — Josh Bresler, USF Polytechnic’s finance director, and Alice Murray, vice chancellor for planning and facilities. They are on administrative leave.
Several of those interviewed by investigators reported they felt pressured by then-Chancellor Marshall Goodman to figure out ways to get him what he wanted, including the soda machine and a job for his son, Robert Goodman.
Robert Goodman also has resigned. He made $51,364 working in Poly’s Blue Sky business incubator program, where several improprieties occurred, according to USF’s investigation reports.
In addition, Robert Goodman’s supervisor, Travis Brown submitted his resignation on April9, saying he was "pursuing other career challenges."
They are among eight people to announce plans this month to leave USF Poly.
Brown was outspoken in his interview with USF investigators.
He said he was told when he was hired that USF Poly had 30 MBA students, when there were only three.
He said he raised questions about the $400,000 video/audio presentation wall, saying it was too advanced for students, and was told it was mainly for Goodman’s productions and weekly speeches.
He said new USF Poly faculty felt pressured while attending a faculty reception at the construction offices of Toll Brothers home builders. "They felt pressured to build/purchase a home because they were being given special deals," said the interview notes.
And Brown said that at one point, Goodman talked about having "openly violated USF President Judy Genshaft" on behalf of state Sen. JD Alexander, the Lake Wales Republican who led the drive to make USF Polytechnic an independent university.
Several people interviewed said Goodman created an atmosphere of fear and paranoia.
According to Associate Vice President Judith Ponticell’s interview, "It was the culture that (Goodman) told them what to do with frequent screaming confrontations."
Goodman began openly pushing for independence in September, and in November the state Board of Governors approved a plan to grant it once the Poly campus met several benchmarks.
Soon after the USF Poly Faculty Senate voted that it had "no confidence" in Goodman, and Genshaft dismissed him. He remains on the USF payroll, however.
The move infuriated Alexander. He pushed a bill through the Legislature this year to shut down the USF Poly campus and take its assets to immediately create the Florida Polytechnic University.
Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill last week.