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Triple-dipping senator gives up third state paycheck

Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, was the creator of the program at FSU that gave her the third state check.

Associated Press

Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, was the creator of the program at FSU that gave her the third state check.

TALLAHASSEE — Just days after a report that she was drawing three government paychecks, state Sen. Evelyn Lynn said Monday she will forgo the rest of her $120,000 annual salary from Florida State University and instead volunteer her time.

The Ormond Beach Republican said recent publicity about her part-time job directing an FSU reading center she created as a legislator "is a distraction from its important mission." She will complete her one-year contract, which expires in September, as an unpaid volunteer.

In a brief letter to FSU president T.K. Wetherell, Lynn wrote: "I am requesting that my current status, leave of absence without pay that I requested for the legislative session, be extended through the end of my contract. Though I do not wish to be paid, it is my intention to fulfill my director responsibilities without pay."

In an interview Monday, Lynn said, "I've been committed to reading and strong student programs all my life. The pay is not as important to me as making sure that I continue with my responsibilities without pay."

Lynn's arrangement was first reported Thursday on the St. Petersburg Times Web site,
tampabay.com. It quickly became a flash point of controversy for two reasons.

State universities are loudly complaining that legislative budget cuts are hurting the quality of higher education, and Lynn was the most prominent example of a "triple-dipper," who collects three state paychecks.

As a retired career educator and administrator in Volusia County, she draws a $3,124 monthly pension. Lynn also earns about $31,000 as a state legislator.

But she was also the creator of the program at FSU that gave her a third check.

Two years ago, as chairwoman of a Senate K-12 education committee, Lynn championed creation of the Florida Center for Reading Research at FSU. In 2007, as the Senate budget chair overseeing higher education, Lynn inserted $1-million in the state budget that included funds to start a reading research outreach center in her Daytona Beach-area district.

She was hired without a competitive search at a salary of $2,300 a week, or $119,600 a year, higher than the mean annual salary for a full professor at FSU. Last week, Wetherell described Lynn's dual roles as an FSU employee and senator with leverage over university budgets as "a coincidence."

On Monday, a university spokeswoman, Browning Brooks, said: "In these tight budget times, doing the things we've had to do, such as cutting enrollment and not filling positions, this shows a great deal of understanding on her part."

Gov. Charlie Crist also briefly weighed in on the controversy Monday. Speaking to reporters outside the Governor's Mansion during an afternoon Easter egg hunt for foster children, Crist said, "Well, I think I need to look at the facts a little more, but it doesn't look great to me."

Lynn, who holds a doctorate in education from the University of Florida, said her decision to fulfill her contract as a volunteer was hers alone, with no pressure from the Senate leadership or others. "I always make decisions on my own," she said.

Times staff writers Shannon
Colavecchio-Van Sickler and Lucy Morgan contributed to this report. Steve Bousquet can be reached at
bousquet@sptimes.com or
(850) 224-7263.

Triple-dipping senator gives up third state paycheck 03/24/08 [Last modified: Sunday, March 30, 2008 9:23am]
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