Issues with rehired staff raise questions on Florida Poly hiring practices

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It has been a long strange path for Josh Bresler at Florida Polytechnic University, one that exposes a few potential weak spots in the hiring practices for the state’s newest public university.

Questions come from a tempestuous on-and-off relationship Bresler had with the school, a relationship that was troubled since before the facility broke from the University of South Florida system in 2012.

Now it appears Bresler is leaving Florida Poly for good, with his resignation effective Feb. 4, leading some to wonder that with such “red flags,” why was Bresler hired back in the first place.

The once-former Director of Budgets and Finance actually left Florida Poly last spring under a cloud of controversy, only later to be fired under allegations of financial mismanagement. He then hired a lawyer to fight the discharge and refute accusations of financial mismanagement, eventually having his termination rescinded and salary repaid.

This time, according to Mary Toothman of the Lakeland Ledger, Bresler submitted another resignation in December, but only after receiving a scathing performance review three months prior.

Bresler’s extended difficulties could cast doubt on how hiring is done at the fledgling school, which expects its inaugural class to start in the fall.

At issue is the fact that Bresler left the Lakeland-based institution once before. University of South Florida Polytechnic dismissed him in May 2012, after a career that spanned over two decades.

A newly renamed Florida Polytechnic then hired the 48-year-old Bresler back in April  for the $103,000-a-year position. 

Chief Operating Officer Ava Parker told the Ledger she would continue assigning Bresler work until he is off the payroll in February.

“This position has not developed as I had expected,” Bresler said in his resignation letter. “This decision is not made easily.”

But in a September performance review, it was evident that rehiring Bresler was not the best idea.

Among a laundry list of concerns, four trustee board members had complained about Bresler’s performance, which Parker detailed in report documents. She also cited his “general lack of understanding about budgets and an inability to follow (his own) presentation during trustee budget briefings.”

Several departments in the university lodged complaints about requests delayed and inaccurate information provided by Bresler’s office.

“Your colleagues complain that they cannot complete their tasks because you do not respond timely or because in some instances, you never responded,” Parker added.

“I observed an inability to manage your time and tasks effectively,” she said. “While you were given the authority to expand your staff, you did not hire staff until you were pushed to make a decision and you refused to use administrative support that was provided to assist you.”

Other issues with Bresler were the lack of his ability to prioritize tasks, as well as communication problems.

“I observed an inability to effectively write the narrative section of the budget,” Parker wrote in her review. “Your work included incoherent sentences that did not adequately describe the intended subject.”

In response, Bresler shot off a 4½-page memo presenting various explanations for his behavior, saying said he was “very distraught” when learning of issues with his performance.

As for receiving his six-month performance review one month early, he said he was “taken aback.”

“I believe it is accurate to say that none of us knew the amount of work and stress of starting a university from ground up,” Bresler’s letter stated. “I am not sure some of my colleagues realize that in crafting an operational budget, which I did primarily during the month of July; I did in a little over one month a task that established universities have full staffs of people, and department support staff, preparing to do over the course of five to six months.”

“I have dedicated many long hours, often at the displeasure of my family,” he added, “to the task of getting the polytechnic’s financial infrastructure created.”

Claiming that some board members “are not financially (sic) people” and others are more “astute to the financials,” Bresler believed that neither group “fully realize the scores of spreadsheets and details that underlie (the budget).”

Bresler also admitted a troubled presentation he gave in June was a problem. “I freely admit that my presentation … was not my usual style,” his memo continued. “I told you candidly at the time that it was the worst performance of my life and was not in any way indicative of my abilities.”

He then added that he was “flustered” and operating with “limited sleep” as reasons for his performance issues. 

With only a few months before Florida Polytechnic University is functioning, now is certainly not the time to develop a workforce that is plagued with such problems. The already politically-troubled creation of Florida Poly should not become any rougher; they simply do not need the extra headache.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.