Another Bethune-Cookman University alumnus sues his alma mater as the long controversy over a now-completed $72 million dorm project continues, and there may be more legal drama on the horizon.
Right-click here to download pdf of Part 1 the lawsuit, then click on “Download linked file”
Right-click here to download pdf of Part 2 the lawsuit, then click on “Download linked file”
BY THE FLORIDA COURIER STAFF
DAYTONA BEACH – Another sworn lawsuit – the second in two weeks – accuses Daytona Beach-based Bethune Cookman University (B-CU) and its board of trustees of violating its own rules by refusing to seat Robert Delancy, the elected representative of the B-CU National Alumni Association (NAA), as a trustee, allegedly in retaliation for Delancy’s aggressive questions about the school’s finances.
Last week, a front-page Florida Courier story gave details about a similar lawsuit filed in Daytona Beach by former B-CU Trustee A. Ray Brinson, who claimed he was terminated from the board in October 2016 without notice or warning, and in violation of B-CU’s bylaws that provide a formal process for removal of trustees.
Delancy’s lawsuit was filed by Fort Lauderdale-based attorney Nathaniel E. Green. Brinson’s was filed by Jacksonville-based attorney Willie J. Walker.
Decades of collaboration
“Since at least 1957, the NAA and the B-CU reached an agreement that calls for the NAA to seat three duly elected individuals on the BOT [B-CU Board of Trustees]; namely, the NAA President and two Alumni Trustee Representatives, who are vested with ‘voice and vote,’” the lawsuit states.
It alleges that the longstanding agreement between the school and the alumni association is “independently reflected within the by-laws of both organizations.”
“For as long as this agreement has been in existence, it has been the understanding, custom, pattern, and practice, that the NAA’s Alumni Trustee Representative, elected in accordance with the NAA’s bylaws, would be accepted, and not subject to veto by the BOT,” the complaint alleges.
Delancy’s lawsuit says he attempted to take his seat on the B-CU board in October 2016 after being properly elected as the alumni trustee representative. The lawsuit alleges that the board refused to seat him – the first time that has happened in the institution’s history – without notice or explanation.
Both Brinson and Delancy – a retired Internal Revenue Service special agent – accuse the university of retaliating against them for asking questions.
“During or around 2015, Plaintiff…expressed worries about the B-CU’s level of debt and lack of transparency regarding the B-CU’s plans to enter into a $72,000,000.00 capital lease over forty (40) years to finance a 1,200-bed student housing project. As such, Plaintiff raised these questions in written correspondences directly to the BOT, its Chairperson, and B-CU’s administrators concerning the housing project,” the lawsuit alleges.
“B-CU’s refusal to accept Plaintiff as a duly elected Alumni Trustee Representative is a direct result from Plaintiff’s questioning B-CU’s lack of transparency, quality of financial leadership and the institution’s long term financial health. Such rejection is both retaliatory and punitive as a direct result of Plaintiff having raised the aforementioned concerns.”
Former fraud investigator
Delancy is a 1979 graduate of Bethune-Cookman and served the alumni association in appointed and elected positions. The lawsuit claims “he has supported B-CU in fundraising and recruitment.”
He lives in Port St. Lucie, and is an Air Force veteran and a former police officer with 27 years in local and federal law enforcement. He retired from the IRS, where he served as a computer investigative specialist focusing on financial fraud.
He now works as a consultant and is qualified as an expert witness to testify in federal court cases about IRS procedures, tax investigations, and computer forensics.
Neither asking for money
Both lawsuits request that a judge stop the B-CU board from moving forward until they are seated as trustees. Though both lawsuits request payment of court costs and attorney’s fees, neither man is requesting that their alma mater pay them any money damages.
Brinson sued the university and all its current board members individually. Delancy sued only the university. Both complaints also ask for a determination of Brinson’s and Delancy’s rights as trustees.
Alumni may act
The Florida Courier also has learned that the NAA may consider filing a separate lawsuit of its own to make sure Delancy takes his seat as a trustee.
In a letter emailed to NAA leadership, Nominations/Elections Chairperson Gwendolyn Anderson wrote, “…I hope that you agree that we should request an emergency call (NAA Board of Trustees) meeting immediately to discuss/ determine our next steps in addressing this crucial matter. I do not think that we should, for the future and betterment of the NAA, just accept this unprecedented decision by the BOT in light of our unwavering contributions to the University’s mission.”
NAA leadership, including President Jennifer Adams, are attempting to set a meeting for early April to consider a response.
Asking hard questions
For at least two years, Delancy has been sounding the alarm about B-CU’s finances to other alumni, according to emails submitted to the Florida Courier.
“If you have a business entity that is dominated by one person, when the accounting department is compromised, when internal controls are weak, when important transactions occur between the company and its officers, and when the management board is not active and involved, the danger of management fraud is greatly increased. These are the situations that are conducive to fraud and should make an independent auditor particularly alert,” he wrote on May 13, 2015.
“Again I make it very clear, I am not suggesting that management fraud exists at Bethune-Cookman University. However, enough information has been uncovered and enough questions surfaced that an independent forensic accounting of the schools (sic) finances is warranted. Further, non-profit or not, we should be leery when any one person attempts to control the dissemination of all information.”
No forensic audit
Delancy’s request for an independent forensic accounting mirrors that of former trustee Johnny L. McCray, Jr., a Pompano Beach-based attorney who wanted the B-CU board to bring in forensic auditors to probe the school’s finances for fraud and fiscal mismanagement. The board of trustees refused. McCray is no longer on the board.
The university has not yet been legally served with a copy of Delancy’s lawsuit as of this writing. B-CU’s response will be published whenever it is given.