COCOA, Fla. – Florida's new Senate president, who wants the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate next year, got $152,000 from a coastal community college to write a book on politics, a product taxpayers will have to share if they want to see.
The lone copy of "Florida Legislative History and Processes" by Mike Haridopolos can only be read at Brevard Community College's administration office.
The 175-page, double-spaced manuscript doesn't come close to meeting the original contract's call for a publishable, textbook-quality look at the development of the Florida Legislature, state constitution, the governor's office and judiciary from pre-statehood until present.
College officials insist the book, mostly Haridopolos' advice on running for office, is useful and will soon be distributed to students online.
"I thought that the book was a very fine piece of work as a primer in the political process," current President Jim Drake, whose predecessor Thomas Gamble negotiated the deal, said last week. "I thought it was a fine contribution to the college."
There's no indication that Haridopolos improperly used his position to benefit the 25,000-student school in his district in Cocoa, near Cape Canaveral. But e-mails The Associated Press obtained from the school indicate administrators believed that having the new senator remain on staff could help the college, even if he wasn't teaching regularly.
"His roles in the Florida Legislature have provided unique access to both houses in Tallahassee," Gamble, who retired in 2006 and died of cancer soon after, wrote to the board of trustees in 2005, defending the project after Florida Today, the local newspaper, started asking about it.
Still, current and former Brevard officials acknowledge the 2003 arrangement with Haridopolos, who was teaching at the school at the time, was highly unusual and expensive.
Haridopolos, who lists his occupation as college professor (he's actually a University of Florida lecturer, a lower rank than professor) and professional author, didn't return calls for comment on this story or respond to e-mails.
Haridopolos began teaching history at Brevard Community College in 1994, shortly after obtaining his bachelor's degree from Stetson University and his master's from the University of Arkansas.
Amy Locklear, a former Brevard professor who collaborated with Haridopolos on a point-counterpoint book in 1998 titled "10 Big Issues Facing our Generation," said he was heavily involved in that project. She estimated they made maybe $500 each for their effort.
Locklear, who was a Brevard department chair when Haridopolos' second deal was struck but had no part in its negotiation, said its scope was unique.
"At a community college, in my opinion, yes, it's unusual, I've never seen one like it," said Locklear, who now teaches in Texas.
"Not everyone has a senator on the faculty," she added.
Brevard Community College no longer plans to publish the manuscript — which notes that "a cell phone will be essential" for the would-be candidate, and "a computer with an Internet connection is equally important" — in traditional bound form.
The idea now is to use segments of the manuscript for different classes, with Haridopolos interacting with students through video conferences or text message, Drake said.
Drake concedes that Haridopolos' arrangement was unusual and compensation was much more than normal. The school has internationally known authors on staff, and they are sometimes given paid leaves or sabbaticals to work on books, but the four-year arrangement with Haridopolos isn't typical, he said.
"I'm not familiar with one in which where is a leave given over an extended period of time unless the research purpose is so compelling," Drake said. "This appears to be an instance of one."
Brevard Community College: http://www.brevard.cc.fl.us/