Valencia College trustee Guillermo Hansen recently sent an email to college President Sandy Shugart complaining that his daughter did not get a job interview at the school.
Hansen complained in the same e-mail about Valencia's not advertising to the Hispanic community, something that Hansen, an owner and editor of a bilingual newspaper in Osceola County, said he had been urging the college to do for many years.
The trustee also complained about his newspaper and a local chamber of commerce not being able to get student interns from Valencia.
Shugart is not concerned about Hansen's email. But the February exchange between the two men has raised questions about whether Hansen misused his post.
There is, at least, an appearance that he may have been trying to use his position to address personal matters, said one of Hansen's fellow trustees and two attorneys who specialize in Florida ethics law.
"I just think there are issues with respect to the use of his position and authority with respect to these issues," said Tallahassee attorney Mark Herron, who defends cases brought before the Florida Commission on Ethics.
Trustee Lori Kifer Johnson said expanding advertising to the Hispanic market is a legitimate conversation to have. But such an inquiry could be construed as inappropriate considering Hansen owns a newspaper that targets Hispanics.
"I don't think it's a bad question for anybody to ask," she said. "But I just think the way he went about it put him in a precarious position."
In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Hansen insisted that he was not trying to gain personally from Valencia. Instead, he said, he was trying to bring problems he has noticed and concerns raised by other people to Shugart's attention.