Senator’s book deal illustrates ethical void

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THE ISSUE: Back-scratching on the taxpayer tab.

OUR OPINION: Not acceptable.

Most new authors would love to get six figures for a book about half the length of a typical Ph.D. thesis. You can’t blame a fellow for jumping on an offer like that.
But when the fellow is current Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, and the entity offering the deal is taxpayer-funded Brevard Community College, it’s time for a smell test. The entire transaction may be legal, but it feels wrong.
The Internet is bristling with condemnations of Haridopolos for taking more than $152,000 over four years from Brevard Community College to write the book instead of holding a typical teaching assignment, while at the same time getting his annual $30,000 state Senate salary and private consulting earnings.
Yes, Haridopolos chose to do it. But keep in mind the other member of this dance was Brevard Community College. Even college officials admit the arrangement was unique. Press reports revealed e-mails that indicated administrators thought having the senator on staff could provide “intangible benefits” for the college.
After several years of languishing as a single manuscript at the college, plus a spike in press interest, Sen. Haridopolos’ book,” Florida Legislative History and Processes,” is now available from Amazon.com for the Kindle e-reader. The Amazon summary calls it a “unique overview of modern Florida politics…”
In the old days — not so long ago in some spots — it was acknowledged that giving something to get something was how the political process worked. Everyone knew it; the costs were part of doing business. But these days we have rules and codes of ethics.
This whole discussion is not really about the book, though it’s a focus point. It’s about seeking and winning favors, particularly financial favors.
One important section in the state Code of Ethics prohibits public employees from accepting anything of value based on an understanding that it was provided to influence a vote or official action. It should be given greater weight.
We agree with the recent statewide grand jury, reporting on public corruption: “The public is tired of officials who abuse their position or ignore conflicts of interest.”