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Deception disclosed; agency official quits

A top official at the Southwest Florida Water Management District resigned his $80,000-a-year job last week after his superiors learned he had lied about having a college degree.

Stuart C. Anderson, the water agency's deputy executive director, claimed in his 1987 job application and in his 1989 request for a promotion that he graduated from the University of Alabama in 1977 with a bachelor's degree in mineral engineering.

But university officials Friday told the Times that Anderson withdrew from the university in June 1978 without earning a degree. If he wanted to return to the university to complete his studies, he would "end up having to take 30-something semester hours," said Dona Sulzmann, staff assistant for the university's mineral engineering department.

Anderson did not return a phone call to his Tampa home.

Anderson's academic gap was discovered in November, according to Mark Farrell, the assistant executive director of the water agency, commonly known as Swiftmud, the water regulatory authority for 16 Florida counties.

At that time an internal audit of management procedures disclosed that pre-employment screenings were not uniformly conducted, Farrell said.

"We decided that if there was concern that something was done inappropriately, we wanted to rectify that, so we wanted to go back and ensure that the senior management staff" had been properly screened, he said.

Personnel workers performed random, retroactive background checks on "only one or two or three" of the 32 senior managers. They discovered Anderson had not graduated as he had claimed, Farrell said.

"We asked him to see what he could do to rectify the situation and he chose not to rectify it," Farrell said of Anderson.

Anderson resigned Feb. 14.

Anderson and three other deputy directors serve as the third link in the agency's chain of command.

He supervised about 150 people, including engineers, hydrologists, geologists and biologists.

"We did not ask him to leave," Farrell said of Anderson. "We regret that he left. He was an excellent employee, a top performer."