10 News Investigators discover Florida Poly trustee applications with questionable ties and lies

9:38 PM, Jun 11, 2012   |    comments
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TAMPA BAY, Fla. - After the 10 News Investigators reported that a number of applicants to serve on Florida Polytechnic's first Board of Trustees have potential conflicts of interest, a new round of potential conflicts are surfacing for other applicants.

In addition to the lobbyists, lawyers, and business leaders identified last week, the 10 News Investigators have discovered three more Board of Trustees (BOT) applicants with potential business dealings with the new school. And these BOT hopefuls weren't forthcoming on their applications:

  • Brian Philpot, owner of land investment corporation Land South LLC and engineering firm Econ South LLC, and a close ally of State Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales. On his application, Philpot listed he hadn't had any direct dealings with any governmental agency in Florida the last four years, yet Econ South received more than $127,000 in contracts from USF Polytechnic in 2011. The company even lists USF Poly as a client on its website.
  • Robert Kincart, owner of science & engineering firm American Compliance Technologies. Although Kincart indicated on his application that he had dozens of contracts with local agencies "provided upon request," he did not specifically indicate the three large contracts his company received from USF in Polk Co.
  • David Robinson, president of DSM Technology Consultants, and a close ally of ousted USF Poly Chancellor Marshall Goodman. Robinson's IT company provided guidance for USF Polytechnic's business incubators, which was conveniently omitted from his application. Robinson disclosed one of DSM's state contracts, but not the contract with the Polytechnic.

When contacted by 10 News, Robinson indicated any dealings with USF Polytechnic would have gone through the state, but a proposal submitted by DSM to Chancellor Goodman in 2009 was signed by Robinson himself.  The history was not disclosed on Robinson's application.

Philpot, who admitted the mistake to 10 News, said he notified the governor's office Monday of his company's dealings with Poly.

Kincart, who told 10 News he took the application literally when it asked if he had any contracts with any state agencies (such as FDOT, FDEP, etc., rather than state universities), said he saw no conflict of interest in his dealings with other universities such as USF since Florida Polytechnic would be it's own independent entity.  In the name of full disclosure, he provided 10 News with a list of five contracts his company has completed for USF and the Florida Institute of Phosphate Research (which is now part of Fla. Poly). 

Other trustees with possible conflicts include:

  • Thomas Cloud, a partner at law firm Gray Robinson, which was the firm representing the Williams Group. The development group donated the land Florida Poly will be built on and still, controversially, controls it, while also owning significant property all around the future campus.
  • Ronald Clark, an attorney at Clark, Campbell, and Lancaster, which was the law firm that represented USF-Polytechnic until last month.
  • Joshua Brown and Charles Lewis, a pair of men who identified themselves as active, registered lobbyists.
    • UPDATE: Lewis has since told 10 News he has never been registered as a lobbyist and accidentally checked the wrong box on his application
  • John Fleming, the president of Phoenix Industries, a company owned by State Sen. JD Alexander's family. Fleming also accidentally applied for a position on USF's Board of Trustees, rather than FPU's.
  • John Hugh Shannon, a Lakeland lawyer whose references included a close ally of Alexander's, lobbyist Wayne Watters.

The state's Board of Governors will nominate finalists for vetting, background checks, and consideration in time for the full board's meeting on, likely to take place on June 21. Once appointed, Florida Poly BoT members will make decisions for the new school until the appointees have a chance to be confirmed by the Senate in early 2013.  

Previous Polytechnic Coverage:
5/31/12 - Florida Poly gets booster club; JD Alexander gets gritty
5/23/12 Board of Governors, USF negotiate Poly split
4/19/12 -
Governor signs SB1994, creates Fla. Poly University
3/5/12 -
USF deal struck, exclusive interview with Genshaft
2/28/12 -
Genshaft told Poly accreditation will take 2-4 years
- Alexander actions have some asking why BOG exists
2/22/12 - JD Alexander: from USF cheerleader to USF critic
- College student warned of Alexander revenge
2/16/12 -
Gov. Scott tells 10 News he's no fan of Poly bill
2/15/12 -
Budget cuts live, but ''divorce settlement'' brokered
2/14/12 -
10 News leading charge to #SaveUSF
2/14/12 - USF fears "devastating" 58% budget cuts
2/8/12 - JD Alexander pushes "backdoor" for Poly independence
12/20/11 - Genshaft dismisses USF-Poly chancellor
11/10/11 - BOG grants USF-Poly eventual independence
11/7/11 -
USF-Poly spends thousands on Star Wars statues
11/3/11 - JD Alexander's bully pulpit

Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Send your story tips to noah@wtsp.com.

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