The Miami Dade College District Board of Trustees on Monday made clear their "unequivocal support" of college president Eduardo Padron following his public, personal spat with several powerful local lawmakers.
Padron set off a firestorm last week when he criticized four Republican politicians he said were trying to kill a bill that would infuse the college's starved coffers with as much as $1 billion. The bill would allow Miami-Dade voters to cast ballots on a half-cent sales tax over five years, which would mostly fund college construction projects.
Padron said four Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Jose Oliva, were actively fighting a bill that would help their hometown. He labeled them "bullies"and "ideologues" and at one point ripped Oliva - slated to become House Speaker in four years - as a college dropout.
In response, 11 members of the Miami-dade delegation penned a letter demanding an apology and condemning Padron's "uncivilized discourse."They said Padron had done more damage than good for the college's funding hopes.
Padron followed with his own letter, in which he apologized for getting too personal with his comments, though not to any one lawmaker. Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, the Hialeah Republican who chairs the Miami-Dade delegation, said the apology didn't go far enough and should have been addressed to individuals.
On Monday, Miami Dade College's seven-member board of trustees took a vote and reaffirmed their unanimous support of Padron, and of the bill the college is pushing for a sales tax referendum.
"The Board fully supports the College's efforts to ensure that MDC secures the necessary resources to effectively serve the students and the larger community of Miami-Dade County,"the board's members said in their statement. "In addition, the Board reaffirmed unequivocal support for MDC President Dr. Eduardo J. Padron and his leadership of the institution."
Board chairwoman Helen Aguirre Ferre said late Monday that the board regretted Padron's comments and wanted to move past the trouble they'd caused. But she said his standing with the board of trustees was never in jeopardy.
"That's never been the case," she said. "I've not heard one board member even suggest that."
Rather, she said the board remains focused on finding more money to support the college and its 175,000 students, and trustees wanted to show that Padron remains a "strong leader."
"The board just wants to make that clear," she said, "in case there was any doubt."
This post was updated with Ferre's comments.