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Herald columnist Fred Grimm: John Thrasher gets cushy university spot he once fought against

Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm opines on state Sen. John Thrasher landing the president's job at Florida State University ...

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Back in 2012, a brave senator from St. Augustine tried to stop barely qualified Florida legislators from exploiting their political clout and snatching cushy jobs at state colleges and universities.

The senator introduced ethics legislation that would have prohibited lawmakers from copping jobs with state colleges or universities while in office. Or for two years after the end of their terms.

It was a worthy, if futile, effort. An embarrassing number of lawmakers had been grabbing snazzy jobs that should have gone to actual academics. House Speaker Ray Sansom was awarded a $110,000-a-year vice presidency at Northwest Florida State College in 2008 after he secured millions in extra state funds for the college (including a $6 million earmark for an “emergency operations center” that was actually meant to serve as an airplane hangar for one of Sansom’s major campaign contributors.)

And there was the $152,000 that Brevard Community College paid Sen. Mike Haridopolos back in 2003 to write a textbook-quality “history of Florida politics.” Oddly, only one copy of the great book was ever published — 175 double-spaced typewritten pages that a reporter found secreted in some obscure corner of the college library years later. (Haridopolos, who was elected Senate president despite his ethical lapses, later wheedled himself into a $75,000-a-year part-time teaching job at the University of Florida.)

In 2008, even as Florida International University was cutting 38 positions, shutting down six research centers and eliminating 23 degree programs, the school managed to fund a $69,000 teaching job for a former state senator named Marco Rubio.

So many of these ethically questionable intrusions by pols into academia were reported that our brave state senator from St. Augustine felt duty-bound to fix this mess (though his bill never reached a full Senate vote.) “There just seems to be a proliferation of these,” he told reporters in 2012. “It’s been a subject of a lot of concern.”

Two years later, it still is. As evidenced this week when Florida State University’s trustees went through a long and embarrassing sham process to pick a politician-turned-lobbyist-turned politician as FSU’s president.

That would be the very same, no longer so brave senator from Jacksonville. Sen. John Thrasher who tried so hard in 2012 to keep term-limited pols from using the state higher education system as a retirement plan, will swap his Senate seat for a half-million-bucks-a-year gig as FSU president.

 

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