B-CU hit with two new lawsuits, ex-CFO claims wrongful termination

Angela Poole photo credit Famuan.org
Angela Poole photo credit Famuan.org

Voice Staff Report

Bethune-Cookman University has been named in two new lawsuits including one asking for $100 million in damages.

Quantum Equity LLC, the builder of the two newest dorms on campus, filed suit this month in U.S. District Court in Maryland against B-CU and Wells Fargo Bank Northwest N.A., serving as trustee for the institutional investors, asking for a jury trial and demanding $100 million in damages, according to published reports in the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

The suits states that B-CU officials knowingly made false statements, defaming the company, which has suffered damages to its creditworthiness and lost income and new business opportunities.

B-CU sued Quantum Equity and other individuals in 2018 alleging deceptive and unfair trade practices, criminal practices and fraud in connection with the dorms after it was revealed that the price was $85 million and not $72 million as previously cited $72 million. The cost with interest would rise to $306 million once the dorms were paid for in 40 years. The same suit names former college president Edison O. Jackson and former B-CU administrators Hakim Lucas and Emmanuel Gonsalves, among others.

Meanwhile, Angela Poole, former chief financial officer at B-CU, has filed a lawsuit against the school.

The lawsuit was filed Oct. 22, according to the News-Journal.

Poole was hired December 2016 by then Bethune-Cookman University President Edison O. Jackson and worked about a year and a half. Before coming here, she was employed as CFO at Florida A&M University and was credited with helping that school get clear of its accreditation probation.

Interim President Hubert Grimes lauded Poole when he took over in July 2017, and she was cited in a credit rating report as helping move B-CU forward. Tax returns show she helped reduce, but not eliminate, the university's losses, the newspaper reported at the time.

A certified public accountant, she alleges in the lawsuit that school leaders violated the Florida's Whistleblower Act by first demoting her and then not renewing her contract when she pointed out problems including how the school handled grant money, according to the newspaper.

College officials declined to comment when asked.

The newspaper said the lawsuit makes several allegations, including that B-CU:

‒ Approved spending grant money on expenses specifically disallowed by the grant and internal controls.

‒ Violated federal regulations on government grants, including record keeping.

‒ Failed to timely reconcile accounts related to grant money it received.

‒ Failed to follow budget and procurement policies before making payments to vendors.

‒ Entered contracts without completing the required procurement process.

The lawsuit did not list any specific money amounts, grants or vendors.

Poole could not be reached for comment.

Jackson, meanwhile is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the university regarding money borrowed to pay for the newest dorms on campus. The situation lead to B-CU being placed on academic probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.