Florida economic opportunity chief stepping down

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Hunting Deutsch

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - State Economic Opportunity Secretary Hunting Deutsch announced Tuesday that he will resign following questions about his own drawing of unemployment compensation and whether he needed it.

The Florida Current first reported that Deutsch received more than $25,0000 in jobless benefits from 2009 to 2011 after being laid off in a corporate merger, even though he owned two homes worth more than $1.1 million and traveled often to Europe during that period of "unemployment." Deutsch also told The Current he didn't need to work during that time.

"I find the current media focus on my personal matters a distraction to the agency and your administration and believe it best for me to leave," Deutsch wrote in a letter to Gov. Rick Scott.

He said he would officially step down Dec. 14.

Deutsch has headed the Department of Economic Opportunity – an agency just created in 2011 as the state's workforce and economic development arm – for eight months. Its initial secretary, Doug Darling, also resigned and was followed in the interim by Cynthia Lorenzo.

"We, through your leadership, have made extraordinary progress as recognized by the Department of Labor in achieving the greatest reduction in unemployment in the entire United States," Deutsch wrote in his resignation letter.

Gov. Rick Scott was traveling on a trade mission to Colombia on Tuesday and didn't immediately comment.

Deutsch was hired to head up DEO in April at a salary of $140,000.

Deutsch was fired by Bank United in July of 2009, and has said publicly that he qualified for unemployment compensation legally, and collected the maximum weekly payment of $275 a week. During that time, he has said he did look for work, as required.

After Deutsch's past acceptance of unemployment was first reported, a spokeswoman for Scott's office said the governor had not been aware that Deutsch had received jobless benefits, despite 10 interviews with him as a job candidate for the agency that handles jobless benefits.

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