Voucher advocate withdraws from FAMU board

03/19/2014 4:33 PM

03/19/2014 10:44 PM

A gubernatorial appointee to the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees withdrew his nomination Wednesday, after a Herald/Times story this week raised questions about his lobbying activities.

Glen Gilzean is the vice president of advocacy and outreach at Step Up for Students, the nonprofit organization that manages Florida’s school voucher program. Step Up is supporting a bill that would expand the program.

In November, the state opined that both Gilzean and Step Up for Students President Doug Tuthill would need to register as lobbyists.

That presented a problem for Gilzean. State law prohibits university trustees from working as registered lobbyists.

Gilzean continued advocating for the bill. The Herald/Times confirmed that Gilzean had lobbied at least six lawmakers on the issue.

But he did not submit his lobbyist registration until Friday. And he withdrew the paperwork Monday.

On Tuesday, a Senate panel was supposed to confirm Gilzean’s nomination to the FAMU Board of Trustees. That decision was delayed.

Gilzean declined to answer questions from a reporter.

In a letter to Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday, Gilzean said he had “foreseen no conflict between participation on FAMU’s board and my work as vice president of advocacy and outreach for the nonprofit Step Up For Students.”

“But as the legislature this year considers a bill strengthening the Tax Credit Scholarship for low-income students, a question has been raised about whether I should be formally registered as a lobbyist in order to advocate on behalf of these children,” he said.

Gilzean said he had decided to “err on the side of caution and to register, which, according to statute, prevents me from serving as a trustee.”

The FAMU appointment was not the first time Scott had named Gilzean to a public board.

In 2012, the governor tapped Gilzean to fill a vacant seat on the Pinellas County School Board. Gilzean lost his bid for reelection a few months later.

Scott spokesman John Tupps later issued this statement: “Governor Scott appreciates Mr. Gilzean’s service to the state and the students of Florida A&M University. The Governor will continue to focus on appointing Board of Trustee members who are committed to providing Florida students with a high-quality education at an affordable price.”

Herald/Times staff writer Tia Mitchell contributed to this report. Contact Kathleen McGrory at kmcgrory@MiamiHerald.com.

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