One day after the publication of a Gossip Extra exclusive about the tighter-then-claimed relationship between embattled Florida Atlantic University President Mary Jane Saunders and Palm Beach Gardens businesswoman Elizabeth Fago Smith, Fago Smith declined her gubernatorial appointment to the Boca Raton school’s board of trustees!
In a brief hand-written note to Gov. Rick Scott, Fago Smith acknowledged a business relationship with the university — in direct contradiction of what she claimed in her nomination questionnaire.
In that questionnaire Fago Smith, who founded the senior communities builder Palm Health Partners, answered “no” when asked if she has “contractual or other direct dealings” with FAU.
In her rejection note to Scott, she acknowledge she does have business with the school!
The governor’s office apparently did not acknowledge the existence of Fago Smith’s statement until April 26, when the terse letter obtained by the FAU’s student newspaper was stamped “Received.”
Fago Smith dated her short missive nine days earlier, April 17!
“Regretfully and reluctantly, I’ve decided it’s best to decline the appointment based on my company’s ongoing business deals with the University,” Fago Smith wrote. “There is not any conflict of interest, however I wish to avoid any appearance of impropriety.”
Fago Smith, who’s one of the state’s most prolific Republican Party fundraisers, did not provide the governor with details about her relationship with the school.
Lies and Public Records
Fago Smith rejected the appointment after my April 16 story about discrepancies in claims made by FAU boss Saunders during an interview with Gossip Extra.
Saunders claimed she had nothing to do with Fago Smith’s nomination, and only knew Fago Smith through her involvement with university charities.
That, however, was disputed in documentation obtained by Gossip Extra that indicated two things: Saunders urged Fago Smith to put in for trustee; And the two have a “close” working relationship.
This site requested all email exchanges between Saunders and Fago Smith over the past six months under the Florida statute governing public records, but we have met resistance from the school’s media relations department.
Debts, Tax Liens And a Drug Lord
After ignoring the request for 10 days, school spokeswoman Lisa Metcalf sent Gossip Extra an invoice for $595 in staff time to produce all emails between the two women.
Metcalf was asked to justify the expense but has not returned calls in over a week.
Her boss, Assistant Vice President Scott Silversten, said he’d look into the matter but has yet to provide an answer.
The article about the relationship between Fago Smith and Saunders came a week after another Gossip Extra exclusive about Fago Smith’s background.
The story pointed out that not only does Fago Smith lack a higher education degree, according to her application, she also has an extensive history of financial trouble both personally and in business.
What’s more, Fago Smith once was married to one of the infamous 1980s cocaine cowboys who imported tons of drugs into the United States through The Bahamas.
Fago Smith hung up the phone this afternoon when asked to comment.