LAKELAND, Fla. - The leaders who inherited a difficult situation at Florida Polytechnic University made it clear they wanted to move past the political turmoil that surrounded the institution's creation.
But another controversial new hire could re-open the wounds from its bruising creation as an independent university.
Former USF Poly finance director Josh Bresler was hired in a parallel capacity at the new Florida Polytechnic University (FPU). His first day of work was Monday.
TIMELINE: Florida Poly's controversial history
Bresler, 48, was fired last April following investigations by the 10 News Investigators and USF into lavish spending at Poly, including then-chancellor Marshall Goodman's $10,000 Star Wars statues.
A USF report into the spending at Poly indicated state law and university policy were broken on leases, purchases, and accounting. Although employees said they felt threatened by Goodman if they didn't break the rules, USF investigators recommended the termination of Bresler:
"In his role as budget director and highest ranking financial employee at USF Polytechnic, 'forgetting' to cease a practice that was knowingly against policy is not an excuse for this conduct."
The report also recommended the firing of Regional Vice President Alice Murray, who immediately resigned.
But Bresler vowed to contest his firing and clear his name. Last fall, his attorney negotiated a settlement with USF that rescinded Bresler's termination and allowed him to resign, retroactive to June 30th, 2012, when USF Polytechnic ceased to exist.
Bresler's most recent job performance review at USF from January 2010 was exemplary, but most of Poly's controversial purchases came later.
FPU Chief Operating Officer Ava Parker tells 10 News that Bresler was hired for his expertise in the "shared-services model," where FPU is using resources from the University of Florida as it gets up-to-speed as the state's newest university.
Parker said the FPU model is similar to the structure of Poly while working under the umbrella of USF. She also said she addressed Bresler's departure from USF but was comfortable with how he addressed it.
Parker tells the 10 News Investigators that she called Bresler's references, but that apparently did not include his previous employer.
USF officials say they don't believe FPU requested any paperwork on Bresler nor were any employees contacted as a reference.
Bresler will make a $103,000 salary as FPU's Executive Director of Budget & Finance.
Bresler is not the first FPU hire to raise eyebrows among the university's initial critics - another former USF Poly employee, Maggie Mariucci, was hired as FPU's Director of External Affairs. Mariucci is also the sister of state representative & House Budget Chair Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland.
On Monday, the FPU Board of Trustees also advanced a proposed timeline for the university's student & faculty recruitment as well as its accreditation.
Parker hopes to open the school with upwards of 500 students by Fall 2014 and achieve accreditation by December 2016, as required by SB 1994, the legislation that created FPU.
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