TAMPA – Mel Jurado, mayor of Temple Terrace, may have to pay a fine and admit that he has committed an offense for allowing the publication of misleading information on his academic record on a city website.
In January, the Florida Ethics Commission discovered the probable cause for which Jurado abused its public office by ordering Temple Terrace employees to post exaggerated educational credentials in its online biography. Commission attorney Elizabeth Miller – essentially the state agency attorney – recently recommended a sanction against Jurado in talks with Jurado attorney, Mark Levine.
Neither the commission nor Levine would reveal the details of the discussion. In general, sanctions resulting from settlements include an admission of offenses and a fine.
Levine said Jurado is still considering whether to accept the offer or bring the matter into an evidentiary hearing.
“I think he has an excellent case for going to trial,” he said.
For nearly a year after being sworn in as mayor in 2017, a page on the Temple Terrace website states that Jurado earned his doctorate. from the University of Illinois. But a 2018 Tampa Bay Times investigations revealed that it came from LaSalle University, a well-known diploma mill in Mandeville, La, closed by the FBI in 1996.
The investigation led 21 citizens to complain to the state ethics agency that the public had been misled and wondered if the inflated biography had benefited Jurado’s career in running a human resources, training and advice.
Jurado has been awarded his PhD. in 1996, a few months before the FBI accused the owner of LaSalle University on charges of fraud and tax evasion. Investigators found that the correspondence school had over 6,000 students, although there were never more than 10 people evaluating the documents. In many cases, the classification of people was not qualified to evaluate the documents assigned to them, the prosecution says. Some votes were awarded simply on the basis of the weight of the documents presented.
Jurado previously said to the Times he completed his PhD in the mail, including a 460-page thesis which he showed to journalists but did not leave them a photocopy. He said he had no idea that the school was a graduation mill.
He still claims to have a valid PhD, a defense that included reviewing the doctoral thesis by Susan McMillan, a retired professor at the University of South Florida. Last year, he ordered city officials to return the title of “Dr.” to his online biography, although he no longer lists his educational credentials.
Commission attorney Miller said Jurado had every opportunity to realize that LaSalle was not accredited and that his doctorate was futile.
“He used public taxpayers’ resources and staff to perpetuate this fraud,” Miller told committee members during a January meeting. “Their website is a communication vehicle for the whole world; this information should be as accurate as possible.”
The Times The survey also revealed that out of two applications for government positions, Jurado claimed to have two masters degrees – in psychology and sports medicine – from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The school had no trace of a master’s degree in sports medicine.
Jurado told investigators that he did the job for the second degree during the same two-year period in which he earned his master’s degree in psychology. He said he had never looked at the web biography although records show that Temple Terrace’s marketing manager Laurie Hayes emailed her for approval before it was published.
Jurado also claimed that he did not benefit from the biography. Her election as mayor – a job that pays $ 239 a month – made it more difficult for her to manage the profitable Group, a consulting business that she jointly managed with her husband, Rod Jurado, until her death in June.
“Actually I lost the income I didn’t earn it,” he said to an investigator.
Jurado has served on over a dozen state and local councils and twice received appointments from the Florida governor. His service spans five years in the Florida Boxing Commission and nine years on the board of directors of the University of South Florida Athletic Association. For about 15 months, she was director of the Florida Office of Early Learning, a state-run agency that had a budget of over $ 1 billion at the time.
A year ago, the Florida Department of Health ordered Jurado to stop referring to herself as a psychologist and fined her $ 814 after an investigation found that she is not a licensed health professional.