GAINESVILLE — Gainesville Attorney Huntley Johnson recently petitioned the University of Florida’s (UF) board of trustees, questioning General Counsel and Vice President Jamie Keith’s competence and ethics.
Johnson’s conflict with Keith escalated when he filed a lawsuit against UF for failing to fulfill public records law requests; he later requested that the inspector general of the State University System investigate Keith’s office. Now there are claims that the state attorney’s office knows of concerns that implicate possible violations of criminal law connected with Keith’s office—outside of Johnson’s claims.
“His behavior came out of nowhere,” UF Assistant Vice President of Public Relations Janine Sikes told the Florida Record. “He filed a 20-page complaint with the Office of Internal Audit and Inspector General and made numerous requests similar to complaints he’d previously made. I’m curious as to why he’s doing all of this.”
Attorney Robert Rush is handling Johnson’s lawsuit and is requesting UF comply with public records law. Allegedly, requested records included Keith’s emails, her calendar, personnel file, salary and curriculum vitae. The Gainesville Sun obtained previously released UF records that contained complaints made about Keith to the board and to UF’s ethics hotline. Johnson cited general counsel hired attorney Mark Herron to investigate his professional conduct for a $12,000 fee. Consultant Herschel Kahn was also hired to coach Keith, although UF initially refused to disclose his role.
“(Johnson) requested our general counsel and board pay him legal fees,” Sikes said. “Counsel declined and after that, he began requesting public records and filed a suit. However, I can’t talk about what the legal fees are about. Regarding the complaints about general counsel, the president is working with both Kahn and the vice-president to coach and help her with management issues and to be successful at UF.”
Johnson reportedly asked a circuit judge to force UF officials to comply with his requests and award him attorney’s fee and costs associated with the case. As for State Attorney Bill Cervone, he allegedly is not ruling out an investigation.
“I’d rather wait until we get the other records and see what they contain instead of speculating why they were requested,” Rush said. “There isn’t a primary focus on Keith, just her office.”
The Gainesville Sun reported that Johnson claimed some UF public records were destroyed. Neither Rush nor Sikes would confirm or deny any of Johnson’s claims to the Florida Record.
“I’m only involved on the records side of things,” Rush said. “I don’t know about any request for investigations by the state and I can’t say how or why this conflict arose nor if it began with the Calloway case.”
Since the Title IX hearing in the Calloway case some alleged the friction between Johnson and Keith developed, and others said UF opened itself up to Title IX lawsuits—ranging from the firing of one staffer for conflict of interest while on the Calloway investigation, to the replacement by a booster and former student-athletic-turned-lawyer on the same case—raising issues of potential bias and lack of impartiality in rulings.