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  1. Florida Politics

Congressional candidate's educational record on website is dubious

Ed Jany is challenging David Jolly for Congress in November, though he can’t run as a Democrat.
Ed Jany is challenging David Jolly for Congress in November, though he can’t run as a Democrat.
Published May 11, 2014

TAMPA — It's a muscular resume that would be the envy of any political novice.

Eduardo "Ed" Jany, running for Congress in Pinellas County against Republican Rep. David Jolly, is an ex-cop wounded in the line of duty. He's a military officer with a Bronze Star and prestigious assignments. His education includes a degree in police administration and work at Harvard University.

But an examination of Jany's credentials raises questions about how the 49-year-old Tampa resident and Marine Corps Reserve colonel has framed his biography.

Jany boasts a degree from Madison University, a school often described as a diploma mill without a campus or classes, but which Jany insists is a legitimate institution. In his online Linked­In resume, Jany lists a degree from the University of Minnesota, which he attended from 1982 to 1986.

Jany acknowledges he does not have the degree listed on Linked­In, but he said the website is set up in a way that does not allow for a more accurate description of his status at Minnesota.

"You just can't say (on LinkedI­n), 'I didn't finish school,' " he said.

That, however, does not appear to be accurate. LinkedIn does allow a brief note to accompany any listing for someone's education. Jany responded, "That is truly not what I recall."

Jany's campaign is already notable for the fact that he does not live in the district where he is running. He hopes to move to Pinellas County in June.

And Jany will appear on the November ballot without a party affiliation, though he is a Democrat. Jany switched from being a Republican to Democrat on Oct. 2 out of frustration with the government shutdown, he said.

State law says candidates cannot run for a party nomination unless they have been a party member for a year.

"My life is an open book," Jany said Friday. "My history and my service record speak for themselves. … I'll stand by it if anybody tries to question it. … It's not like I'm some schmuck who put together a bogus degree."

Joe Robinson, a retired Orlando police officer and mayoral chief of staff, praises his friend Jany as a smart and honorable man. But he said he warned Jany that politics is a different world than what he knows.

"It's very vitriolic," he said. "It's a tough mental and emotional game. He's getting out of the military and going into a different form of combat."

•••

Jany and his family came to the United States from Brazil in 1968, settling in Milwaukee.

Jany attended a military high school and enlisted in the Army two days after turning 17. After completing basic training, Jany attended the University of Minnesota. He joined the school's Reserve Officers Training Corps, or ROTC, program.

But military service, Jany said, interfered with his education.

"I did a stupid thing," he said. "I went on active duty and ended up spending more time with the Army rather than going back to school to finish."

He said he earned all necessary credits at Minnesota but did not complete other degree requisites, such as a senior project.

The school could not verify what requirements are unfinished.

On LinkedIn, the entry for Jany's Minnesota education says "BGS, Latin American Studies." BGS stands for "bachelor of general studies." Jany, the school said, has no such degree.

Jany currently works as a director for Mutualink, a Connecticut firm providing communications and training services to police and military.

His bio on the firm's webpage says Jany "attended the University of Minnesota, completing four years of baccalaureate and graduate level work in Latin American studies."

•••

In the three decades since he joined the Army, Jany has bounced between Reserve and active military duty, first with the Army, where he received special forces training and eventually became a Green Beret. Then he transferred to the Marines, climbing the rungs of leadership. Jany is retiring from the Marine Corps Reserve by this summer.

His military career includes some of the most prestigious assignments open to service members, including a stint at the Marine Command and Staff College and command of the Marine Anti-Terrorism Battalion. He came to Florida in 2009 and was assigned to Special Operations Central at MacDill Air Force Base.

Jany, whose military performance evaluations contain high praise from superiors, has served 12 deployments to other nations, but not in Iraq or Afghanistan.

In 2004, Jany earned a Bronze Star in Yemen, records show. Jany declined to discuss details of the service that earned him the medal, saying it involved a classified operation.

Jany, a married father of two, also has worked as a police officer in between active military stints starting in Orlando in 1989, then Minnesota and Washington state, where he rose to the rank of captain. He has more than 20 years of police experience.

In Washington, Jany was accidentally shot in the arm and hand by another officer during a raid in which a violent felon was shot and killed.

The shooting was ruled justified after an inquest.

Jany said he decided about 10 years ago that he wanted to complete his degree. He said Marine Corps educational advisers suggested Madison as an appropriate distance-learning school.

"If it was good enough for the Marine Corps," Jany said, "it was good enough for me."

Madison, located in Mississippi, is not accredited by any legitimate authority and essentially sells degrees, diploma mill experts say. School officials did not return a message seeking comment.

The Mississippi Commission on College Accreditation lists Madison on its "nonapproved entities list," which means it does not meet state educational standards.

"It's completely fake," said George Gollin, a University of Illinois professor who has studied diploma mills. Jany, he said, "must certainly have known it wasn't legitimate, because they would have just taken his money and given him the credentials."

Jany, however, said he did a "significant amount of papers and course work," including a project on police procedure. He said Madison accepted class credits from Minnesota and elsewhere to use toward his degree.

Jany said his Madison degree "was good enough" for the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, where he attended the senior executives fellows program in 2013.

A brochure for the four-week program, which teaches skills for effective leadership, says it has "no formal educational requirement."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

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