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Former St. Petersburg College president Kuttler marries staffer

ST. PETERSBURG — Carl Kuttler Jr., who retired two years ago as president of St. Petersburg College, has married the college employee who was subject of a favoritism investigation near the end of his 31-year tenure.

Kuttler, 71, and Violetta Sweet, 37, were wed Nov. 18, according to a marriage license filed Friday. Pastor William Losasso of Pathways Community Church in Seminole presided.

In an interview Friday evening, Kuttler said his romantic involvement with Sweet began after he left the college, although questions about their relationship figured into intense counseling and self-evaluation that he began more than a year before he retired.

"I had been seeing professionals already, about my workload, my marriage, on what I would do in retirement, and what I would have to do to have another life,'' Kuttler said.

During his presidency, Kuttler was regarded as a dynamic leader who oversaw the growth of a two-year junior college into a four-year state institution with worldwide partnerships and more than 20 baccalaureate degree programs.

His relationship with Sweet came under scrutiny in 2008 after she was hired as temporary director of international studies, without a public search. Then she was named permanent director — with a $64,075 salary — over 64 other applicants.

Before that, she had worked as a college payroll clerk earning $10.70 an hour and for three years in a jewelry store.

Kuttler and Sweet became friends after she emigrated from Kazakhstan in 1998. In 2000, he walked her down the aisle for her first marriage, giving her away. He once used his personal credit card to pay for expenses when she made a college-related trip to Washington, D.C.

Kuttler said he had no hand in Sweet's hiring or promotion, but said she had proven her value. Among other things, her ability to speak Russian was useful during cultural exchanges.

A 2008 audit, ordered by the board of directors, found that Kuttler broke no college or state laws in Sweet's hiring and promotion. But it recommended that the college change its hiring practices.

Kuttler said Friday that several important factors figured into his decision to retire in 2009. Politicians on the board who were running for office made his administrative job more difficult, he said, as did some board members' business connections. He declined to specify which board members he was referring to.

He was also trying to figure out how to work less, deal with problems in his first marriage and sort out his future, he said. At the time, he felt what he described as a growing sense of "common bonds'' with Sweet, who was then his friend but not lover, he said.

"That was one of the things,'' he said. "If the relationship was in fact, going to go, I was going to distance myself from the college and I did.''

Sweet divorced her first husband, Owen, in June 2009. They have a young daughter. Kuttler ended a 47-year marriage with attorney Evelyn Kuttler in October 2010.

He said he proposed to Sweet this fall, but declined to elaborate on their dating history, honeymoon or other private matters.

He is pursuing business interests, consulting and doing charity work, he said, though he declined to provide specifics.

"Probably not a month goes by that someone hasn't asked me to serve on a board and the like,'' he said.

Kuttler said his life is not settled. "I am still seeking advice on how to have a meaningful life.''

He and his ex-wife suffered a tragedy in April when their 43-year-old son, Carl Kuttler III, jumped to his death from the Sunshine Skyway bridge.

The marriage license indicates that Kuttler and his new wife are living in one of the Sailboat Key condos in South Pasadena.

After Kuttler retired, Sweet was reassigned to the college's Allstate Center, where she is a project coordinator II, earning $68,966.71 as of October.

Contact Stephen Nohlgren at (727) 893-8442 or snohlgren@tampabay.com

Former St. Petersburg College president Kuttler marries staffer 12/02/11 [Last modified: Friday, December 2, 2011 10:50pm]
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