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Controversy leads senator to resign from college job

Thanks to state Sen. Tim Deratany, Florida Institute of Technology has been getting a larger share of the proceeds from Challenger license plates than other colleges. But after helping the college and then taking a $35,000-a-year job as FIT's chief fund-raiser, Deratany found himself the center of controversy. On Tuesday, the senator announced that he was giving up the college job.

"I'm just interested in doing what's best for the university and myself," said Deratany, R-Indialantic.

Deratany, chairman of the Senate Finance and Tax Committee, announced his resignation from FIT in an open letter Tuesday.

He acknowledged he has received criticism since a story Feb. 14 in Florida Today reporting he took the post as director of university relations after helping a research authority based at the Melbourne school gain 25 percent of the proceeds from Challenger license plates.

The Technological Research and Development Authority, charged with supporting and promoting space research at state colleges, has funneled $1.4-million to FIT and only $525,000 to five other colleges since it began receiving tag dollars in August 1988.

Deratany had sponsored a bill proposing that the research authority receive 50 percent of the tag money, but a compromise left the authority splitting the share with the state Department of Education. The Astronauts Memorial Foundation, created to build a monument honoring America's fallen astronauts, gets the remaining 50 percent.

Deratany said that he has done nothing wrong but that the resignation will clear up any misconceptions that he showed favoritism to FIT.

"I think in the future it has the potential to be perceived that way," he said.

Deratany, who derives income from investments and real estate, has a net worth in excess of $1-million, according to his most recent financial disclosure report. His annual senator's salary is $20,646.

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