SCF President Lars Hafner's job still on the line

MANATEE -- The board of trustees for the State College of Florida has unfinished business when it comes to the future of current president, Lars Hafner.

Board Chairman Carlos Beruff has called a special meeting Oct. 23. The only thing on the agenda? Complete the president's evaluation.

At the August meeting, the last time the board discussed Hafner's performance as president, Vice Chairman Craig Trigueiro made a motion of no-confidence, calling into question Hafner's financial judgment.

A collegiate school was supposed to cost around $500,000, but turned into $5 million project under Hafner's watch, Trigueiro said. A $70,000-$80,000 women's tennis program became a $750,000 project.

But the motion stalled with a 4-4 vote, partly because the results of a Florida Department of Law Enforcement forgery investigation of Hafner had not been completed.

The investigation began in June after board Beruff provided evidence that Hafner forged the signature of former board Chairman Steve Harner on a 2010 state grant application for the collegiate school, a charter school that helps first-generation college students graduate. Hafner maintained repeatedly, and also in an affidavit, that he signed the name with Harner's permission. Harner told the Bradenton Herald in June that he did give Hafner permission to sign his name in certain occasions, but Harner didn't document or remember which ones.

At the Sept. 25 meeting, the board decreased the amount Hafner can spend on college construction projects from $325,000 to $150,000, but did not hold another vote because trustee Charlene Neal was absent.

Before that meeting, roughly 50 students parked themselves outside of doorways, looked for board members and shouted "Let Lars Lead."

The FDLE ruled on Oct. 4 that there is no basis for criminal charges for Hafner.

Since then, many trustees have suggested that another vote is imperative.

"The board is still at a standstill." board member Ed Bailey said two weeks ago after the state investigation closed. "There needs to be a vote of confidence or a vote of no confidence."

The special meeting will be 5:15 p.m., Oct. 23 at SCF Lakewood Ranch, in the Center for Innovation & Technology, Selby Room.

Katy Bergen, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.