Bethune-Cookman University's Board of Trustees accepted the resignation on Thursday of its chairman, Larry R. Handfield, less than a week after he angered several trustees by publicly announcing the resignation of the university's president.
Mr. Handfield, who has led the board since July 2009, had told a local newspaper earlier this week that he planned to step down as chair but remain on the board. On Thursday, however, the university announced that Mr. Handfield had resigned from the board completely.
Mr. Handfield's resignation comes amid an internal conflict at the institution involving the Board of Trustees and the university's president, Trudie Kibbe Reed. Even though the board publicly announced its confidence in Ms. Reed last year, her leadership has been a source of contention.
An external agency recommended to the board at its meeting last Friday that Ms. Reed and Mr. Handfield both begin a transition out of their positions, according to a trustee who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the situation. Ms. Reed agreed at that meeting to begin that leadership-transition process, the trustee said.
But what was supposed to be an orderly departure, choreographed through future discussions, was pre-empted last week, the trustee said, when Mr. Handfield said publicly that the board had accepted Ms. Reed's resignation. Speaking to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Mr. Handfield said, "We accepted her resignation. Everybody was in agreement."
Two other trustees told The Orlando Sentinel this week that the board had not discussed the issue of Ms. Reed's resignation. One of those trustees, the Rev. Randolph Bracy Jr., told the Sentinel that her resignation was "out of the question," and that Mr. Handfield was "out of order" and would be "dealt with."
Mr. Bracy also resigned from the board on Thursday, according to a university statement.
Mr. Handfield is a Miami-based criminal-defense lawyer and was the first Bethune-Cookman alumnus to become chairman of its Board of Trustees. The university's music building and soon-to-be-completed athletic facility bear his name.
Mr. Handfield did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
Lee E. Rhyant, who served as the board’s vice chair, will replace Mr. Handfield as chair, the university said. Mr. Rhyant is a Bethune-Cookman alumnus and recently retired as executive vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s aeronautics facility in Georgia.