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UCF president quits amid scandal

University of Central Florida President Steve Altman resigned Saturday after a newspaper reported he called on escort services during trips to at least five cities while on university business. Altman, 45, offered his resignation by telephone to University System Chancellor Charles Reed after the Orlando Sentinel reported Saturday that his use of escort services was not limited to several incidents in May 1990.

"He said it was in the best interest of the University of Central Florida and the state university system. I accepted it," Reed said in a statement.

Reed had launched his own investigation of the allegations against Altman after police records released Thursday to the Sentinel and the Gainesville Sun showed he had patronized Esquire Escorts in Tallahassee in May 1990.

Altman, who is married, initially said he received massages from the escort service three times in 1990, but he kept his clothes on and there was no sexual activity. He said he did not know the service was a prostitution ring until Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents interviewed him.

"Nothing improper happened," Altman said Friday, vowing to stay on as president in a news conference attended by nearly 100 students and staff in a show of support. "I have a lengthy history of receiving massage therapy for stress, fatigue and tightness in my back."

However, the Sentinel reported Saturday that travel records show he also called on escort services from hotels in Tampa, Miami, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., while on university business.

"He had initially indicated to the chancellor that it had been basically one occurrence," said Board of Regents spokesman Pat Riordan. "When he began to make changes in his story, he and the chancellor had a very serious conversation. The chancellor would like to leave it at that."

Riordan said Altman would have a face-to-face meeting with Reed on Monday in Tallahassee to formally tender his resignation.

An interim president will be appointed during the search for Altman's replacement, and a new president should be in place by the start of the school year in 1992 at the latest, Riordan said.

Altman was among hundreds of customers who turned up on the client lists of Esquire Escorts, which was closed down in August 1990 by the FDLE. No customers or escorts were charged, but Esquire's owners were convicted of promoting prostitution and other charges.

Riordan and UCF spokesman Dean McFall noted that Altman has by all accounts been an effective leader of the school, raising research money, building the foundation, attracting good teachers and promoting the laser physics program.

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