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Atwater served as character reference for one member of search committee

Wendy LinkOne member of the Florida Atlantic University presidential search committee who will decide whether Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater becomes a finalist used Atwater as a reference when she was appointed to the Florida Board of Governors in 2011.

Wendy Sartory Link, an attorney at the West Palm Beach law firm of Ackerman, Link & Sartory, listed Atwater as one of three references when she was appointed to the Board of Governors for the university system by Gov. Rick Scott. Her law firm has also won more than $7.5 million in contracts with the state-run insurance carrier, Citizens Property Insurance, whose management Atwater oversees.

Link will be among the 15 members of the FAU search committee who will interview the 10 remaining applicants for president of the university on Thursday and Friday. The group will narrow the list to three finalists and the ultimate selection will be made by the university’s board of trustees at its meeting on Jan. 17.

The university has hired a search firm for $90,000, plus an estimated $9,000 in expenses, to conduct a nationwide search to fill the vacancy left when former president Mary Jane Saunders resigned. After receiving 61 applications, the presidential search committee narrowed the list to 10 which included eight academics as well as Atwater and former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, both Republicans.

Neither Atwater nor Link would comment on whether she can judge Atwater objectively given her reliance on him in her application. A spokesman for FAU compared the relationship between Atwater and Link to two families "sending their kids to the same day care."

"We do not believe that a search committee member (or, for that matter, a Trustee) should recuse himself or herself from considering a presidential candidate simply because he or she might know that candidate personally,’’ said FAU spokesman Joshua Glanzer. Story here.

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