FAU Board of Trustees appoints new Chair and Vice Chair

Dylan Bouscher

FAU’s Board of Trustees (BOT) — the university’s 13 highest ranking officials — vote on multimillion-dollar deals from annual budgets to new dorms and parking garages.

Yet a year-long special investigation by the UP, released last June, revealed that half of the BOT’s members have bankruptcy filings, foreclosures, or other monetary troubles in their past. The Trustees have also voted to raise FAU’s tuition by the maximum amount, 15 percent, every year for the last four years.

Now, the Trustees have not only picked a new Chair and Vice Chair, but promoted the two who have arguably the worst financial histories among their colleagues.

The Board of Trustees appointed Anthony Barbar. Photos courtesy of Media Relations.
The Board of Trustees appointed Anthony Barbar. Photos courtesy of Media Relations.

Anthony Barbar and Thomas Workman Jr. are both FAU alumni. Barbar earned his bachelor’s in international business; Workman earned his in accounting. Both are also past presidents of FAU’s Alumni Association.

Both joined the Board of Trustees after they were appointed by the Florida Board of Governors (BOG) — a 17-member board governing the state’s 12 public universities — in 2008. Barbar’s term ends in 2015, and Workman’s term ended this month, but he applied for reappointment.

Barbar became the BOT’s new Chair, and Workman became the new Vice Chair at a Jan. 15 meeting. Workman’s reappointment became official at a Jan. 17 BOG meeting.

The BOG has a Trustee Nominating and Development Committee, where Governor Norm Tripp recommended Workman for the job. Tripp is a former Chair of FAU’s BOT.

“I had the pleasure of serving with [Workman] when I sat on the FAU Board,” Tripp said. “He is an outstanding Trustee, dedicated, with an excellent attendance record.”

When the UP asked for comments from former BOT Chair Robert Stilley, President Mary Jane Saunders, and Workman himself about his qualifications, Director of Media Relations Lisa Metcalf attached the following statement from Saunders in an email:

Thomas Workman. Photos courtesy of Media Relations.
Thomas Workman. Photos courtesy of Media Relations.

“I am pleased that Tom Workman has reapplied for a second term on the Board of Trustees. He is a proud of alumnus of this university, and to this day continues to have the students’ best interest at heart. He has been a dedicated member of the Board, and was absolutely wonderful in his first term. Tom has attended numerous FAU functions throughout the past few years and graciously offers his continuous support for his alma mater. Tom truly cares for the University, its faculty, staff, students and alumni, and we are honored that he has requested serving for a second term.”

Now that Workman has been reappointed by the BOG, he must be confirmed by the Florida Senate. Barbar and Workman filled out the same questionnaire and were confirmed by the Senate when they were first appointed to the BOT.

When asked, “Have any judgments been entered against you as a result of any civil or administrative proceedings?” both answered no.

Court documents obtained by the UP, however, paint different portraits of Workman and Barbar. In his application for reappointment, Workman attached a letter to Frank Brogan, Chancellor of the State University System — made up of Florida’s 12 public universities — acknowledging his answer may not have been accurate:

“In the 1980s, I guaranteed a loan with a partner who later defaulted. As a result, the bank pursued me for the full debt. After a lengthy litigation and numerous attempts to settle, my council advised me to file for bankruptcy protection to prevent incurring a judgement. On Oct. 14, 1994, a petition for discharge of debtors was filed and on April 4, 1995 we were granted full discharge of all debts outstanding. I have never had any judgements placed against me and I owe nothing but my monthly credit cards, which I pay in full each month. I learned a good lesson and I don’t guarantee any loans for anyone anymore.”

Despite writing to the BOG that he “never had any judgements placed against me,” Workman and his wife were sued by First United Bank in November 1995 to foreclose on a Boca Raton condo they owned.

Aside from three lawsuits brought against companies he worked at, and a federal tax lien issued against another one of his companies that owed $2,700 in back taxes, all before 1995, the suit between Workman and First United Bank ended in Workman owing the bank $38,000 and the condo being lost to the bank, according to a judgment summary, available online at upressonline.com/bot.

Barbar, on the other hand, filed for bankruptcy twice in two years. The first time, in January 1991, The Barbar Group Inc. (a company Barbar’s father started as president and made his son the vice president of), filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection, to restructure and pay its debts. The Barbar Group no longer exists.

Five months later, Barbar, a relative, and the Royal Palm Improvement Association were being sued by the federal government to foreclose on a property they owned. In their ruling, the judge ordered three foreclosures and the defendants to pay the bank $37 million.

One month after that, Barbar Realty, Barbar’s father, and another relative were sued by the Bank of Credit and Commerce. In their ruling, the judge ordered the group to pay $362,000 total: the $313,000 owed to the bank, $40,000 in interest, and $9,000 for the bank’s attorney fees.

In April 1992, Barbar filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy himself. The court denied him protection from his creditors.

Ten years later, in February 2002, Royal Palm Mortgage sued Barbar, his father, and two other relatives to foreclose on another property they owned. In their ruling, the judge decided Barbar and his relatives owed the mortgage company $3.1 million.

President Saunders. Photos courtesy of Media Relations.
President Saunders. Photos courtesy of Media Relations.

Six months after that, the landlord who owned the office space where The Barbar Group, Barbar Investment Group Inc., Barbar, and his father worked, sued to evict them. Barbar, who was president of the now non-existent Barbar Investment Group, was evicted in the judge’s ruling.

In 2009, Deutsche Bank National Trust sued Barbar and a relative to foreclose on another property they owned. As of publication time, the lawsuit was still pending. In 2010, another landlord sued Barbar and Barbar Investment Group for $191,000 owed in back rent.

In their time on the BOT, Barbar and Workman have approved loans to build the $70 million football stadium, $131 million Innovation Village Apartments, $46 million freshman housing project, and a $15.6 million parking garage. They also approved last year’s operating budget, which defunded classes and research on the SeaTech campus in Dania Beach, and suspended the Treasure Coast and Fort Lauderdale campuses.

Barbar’s term on the BOT ends in January 2015, but Workman will now serve until January 2018. Later this year, the pair will approve the university’s annual operating budget and, if necessary, another tuition increase.

Lore Khazem contributed reporting to this story.


Add it up

FAU’s Board of Trustees is comprised of 13 members. Together these members approve FAU’s annual budget, which was over $238 million this year, and approve multi-million dollar parking garages, dorms, and football stadiums.

The Trustees are divided into four categories:

– Six members are appointed by the Governor of Florida (five-year terms)
– Five members are appointed by the Board of Governors (five-year terms)
– One member is FAU’s student body president (one-year term)
– One member is FAU’s Faculty Senate president (two-year term)