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Jax Daily Record Friday, May. 30, 201412:00 PM EST

Grand jury critical of Wallace and FSCJ, finds no 'provable criminal activity'

by: David Chapman

Despite allegations of public funds being misspent, a grand jury concluded there was no “provable criminal activity” by former Florida State College at Jacksonville President Steve Wallace.

The latest investigation centered on about $224,000 of unused leave pay Wallace collected that was “possibly excessive.”

While there was no such provable activity, the grand jury did find the relationship among Wallace, the school and its charitable foundation resulted in “a failure to exercise reasonable due diligence in being conscientious stewards of taxpayer monies.”

That came from vagueness in Wallace’s employment contracts with the school regarding the type of leave he was entitled. Better recording systems, like accurate monthly time sheets, were needed, according to the grand jury’s report.

Wallace resigned in 2012 amid local and statewide scrutiny of his spending practices and other issues. Ultimately, his payout was $570,000 but the school’s board of trustees in December wanted $160,000 back, claiming he wasn’t entitled to leave pay.

He had 17 employment contracts with the board throughout his 15-year tenure. They all required 40 hours a week, but allowed scheduling flexibility, the report states.

Yet, Wallace’s “potpourri of obligations” as president, as a director of the Florida State College Foundation and his role in JAX Chamber “proved impossible” to determine when he was working.

Combined with time sheets that “were not as specific or frequent as needed” and a lack of contract clarity, no provable fraud or theft could be established, the grand jury concluded.

Wallace’s attorney, David Wells, said by email: “The vindication of Dr. Wallace is the only result the facts would allowed.” He also said the “flex/comp process” was in place for 15 years and “well known and meticulously documented.”

The report also made note of the changes since Wallace departed and under the leadership of Cynthia Bioteau, who started in January. Specifically, a “culture of responsibility and transparency” exists, with her contract serving as an example.

“It is clear that taxpayer monies are more highly valued and cared for at the College,” the report states.

But, ultimately, those taxpayers “have been the true Victims of this dispute,” it said.

Jill Johnson, the school’s spokeswoman, said the matter is between Wallace and the state, but the school’s board would continue to perform due diligence and follow procedures for what it’s owed.

It isn’t an item the board would have to vote on, she said, but it also is not yet an agenda item on the board’s next meeting June 10.

“FSCJ will continue to put our students first and maintain good stewards of public money,” she said.

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