Florida is a rogue state. Rules are meant to be broken.

You see it at Florida’s universities.

An immigrant from a non-rogue state – Bernie Machen, president of the University of Florida – has come in and sort of tried to clean up, but he can’t. Florida’s rogue all the way down.

Note Machen’s pathetic emails in the latest corruption scandal on his campus.

Good man. But pathetic.

The University of Florida is investigating cases in which College of Medicine administrators used a state program to retire and then be rehired without searches for other candidates – receiving perks such as bonuses and raises in the process.

UF President Bernie Machen said he has pushed to end abuses of the Deferred Retirement Option Program, known as DROP, but the allegations and 20 other cases suggest the effort has seen mixed success. The program is intended to provide incentives for long-time public employees to retire, clearing the way for lower-paid replacements.

… A provision in state law allows employees to get payouts that can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars to retire and then return to work while collecting both salaries and pensions, a practice called double-dipping. The loophole has been used by an increasing number of public employees across the state.

Double-dipping is legal, but the law requires employees to take time off between their retirement and return to work. UF policy requires competitive searches for most faculty and staff positions. UF also has enacted rules intended to stop employees from making pre-retirement agreements to be re-employed, which can be costly at a time of budget cuts and layoffs.

The investigation follows claims made by former UF College of Medicine Dean Dr. Bruce Kone in letters sent to university and state officials. Using e-mail and other public records, Kone claimed administrators made agreements to be rehired without searches, in some cases without taking time off and being given other perks.

UF officials confirmed investigations are ongoing, but would not provide any details. Machen declined to comment on specific allegations but a 2007 e-mail showed he referred to one such agreement as “a prostitution of the University.”

… In one case, UF Jacksonville campus Dean Robert Nuss received a $150,000 lump-sum payment from DROP to retire in 2004, according to Florida Department of Management Services records. Kone alleged that UF waived search requirements before rehiring Nuss and also gave him a bonus of nearly $25,500 to offset retirement benefits that he missed under DROP rules.

He now gets a university salary of $385,000 while also receiving about $2,600 in monthly retirement benefits, state records show. Nuss did not respond to requests for comment.

… “These are the same universities that come to the Legislature with their hands out and say we don’t give them enough money,” said state Sen. Mike Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican seeking to change the practice.

… Machen said that when he started in 2004, he found that some employees had made pre-retirement arrangements to be re-employed. He said he first directed such arrangements to be eliminated for senior administrators

A campus-wide memo sent in 2005 warned all employees that the arrangements could put their benefits at risk. UF received ambiguous state advice on the legality of such arrangements, Machen said, but he viewed such deals as bad policy.

… [P]hysician and administrator Dr. Nicholas Cassisi retired in June 30, 2003, and was rehired a month later at his pre-retirement salary of $435,937.

In a 2002 letter, former College of Medicine Dean Craig Tisher requested that all recruiting and affirmative action requirements for the position be waived.

State records show Cassisi received a lump sum of more than $90,000 from DROP and about $1,600 in monthly retirement benefits.

… An e-mail from Machen showed that UF’s president took issue with a pre-retirement agreement involving an endowed professorship.

In the Nov. 25, 2007, e-mail, Machen referred to the agreement with former Senior Associate Dean for Educational Affairs Dr. Robert Watson as “a prostitution of the University” and “one of the worst abuses of non-profit status I have ever seen.”

“Shame on everyone involved,” he wrote…

UD thanks a reader for the link.

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