The job that state Sen. Evelyn Lynn has landed as director of a Florida State University reading center is worse than political patronage. It is a form of legislative featherbedding that deserves the formal rebuke of her colleagues.
The job would not exist but for her influence as chairwoman of two key Senate education committees, and anyone who says otherwise is either complicit or in denial. Her fingerprints are all over this one.
Print 1: In 2006, Lynn made certain as Education Pre-K-12 chairwoman that an omnibus bill on school accountability included this unusual statutory instruction: "There is created at the Florida State University, the Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR). The center shall include two outreach centers, one at a central Florida community college and one at a south Florida state university."
Print 2: In 2007, as Higher Education Appropriations chairwoman, she included a $1-million budget line item for a reading research "outreach center" specifically at the Daytona Beach campus in her district.
Print 3: In September, she was appointed as director of the new center without benefit of an open job search. Her pay is $2,300 a week, which comes to $119,600 a year.
This is a legislative quid pro quo for which FSU president T.K. Wetherell, a former House speaker, should certainly be held to account. But at a time when the Legislature has been financially starving the universities and in a Senate that is trying to remove a state board that is supposed to insulate universities from politics, the Lynn gambit must also be addressed by Senate President Ken Pruitt. Does he deem this kind of behavior to be ethical? Is this the kind of self-dealing that voters can expect if they give lawmakers direct control over universities?
Lynn exhibits no shame in this tawdry tale. As a 78-year-old former Volusia County school teacher and administrator, she now gets three different state checks: her FSU job, her $31,000 legislative salary and her $3,100-a-month school retirement.
Is no one in the Capitol embarrassed by this?