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For Florida Lottery chief, a rough outing

A House committee spent 90 minutes skewering Lottery Secretary Leo DiBenigno on Tuesday, and demanded explanations for why he didn't follow specific budget language known as proviso that was approved last session.

The language, found on page 335 of the current budget, ordered DiBenigno to "competitively solicit for advertising contracts," and told the Lottery it "may not extent or renew the current contracts." Instead, the Lottery entered into a month-to-month basis with the same agency, Cooper DDB of Miami, whose lobbyist is former Lottery Secretary David Griffin.

By the time DiBenigno got around to seeking new advertising proposals, it was Feb. 6, eight months into the fiscal year, and the letter of solicitation referred to "an informal competitive process." That choice of words, which DiBenigno himself acknowledged was "very poor," further antagonized the Legislature.

Rep. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, chairman of the House Governmental Operations Appropriations Committee, led the grilling of DiBenigno, and urged the Lottery chief to start from scratch and seek proposals from advertising agencies through a formal process known as an ITN (invitation to negotiate).

"This time, we did not get the results we wanted," Hays told DiBenigno. "We look forward to a much better performance next time."

-- Steve Bousquet