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210 posts from June 2009

June 30, 2009

Auditors say they can't investigate plane misuse by gov & cabinet

Bill mccollum close Alex Sink close Top Florida officials misused state resources to travel between the capital and their homes, costing taxpayers at least $51,000 and raising potential IRS violations, according to state investigators' findings that were removed from a final auditor's report.

Meanwhile, Tallahassee lawyer Jose Blas Lorenzo Jr. also filed an ethics complaint Monday accusing Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink of ''abusive, unauthorized use of state aircraft'' following reports by the Herald/Times and other news outlets.

Sink, along with Attorney General Bill McCollum and Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, spent $51,000 of taxpayer money from July 1, 2008, through Feb. 15, 2009, commuting to their homes or taking ''unnecessary legs during business trips,'' according to the Department of Management Services' March 3 audit. Sink spent the most -- $27,200 -- while McCollum spent $12,600 and Kottkamp spent $9,900, according to auditors. 

But those details, as well as recommendations and conclusions, were left out of the final report. "We did not have any manpower to further investigate that," said Cathy Schroeder, DMS spokeswoman. 

Read full story here. Examples follow:

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Odom is off transportation board

A4S_odom022209_57521c Jay Odom, the developer who has been indicted along with Rep. Ray Sansom, has resigned from the Northwest Florida Transportation Corridor Authority. (more here)

Appointed by then Gov. Jeb Bush, Odom was a founding member of the panel, which was created by Sansom and others in 2005. Odom and his authority recently raised the ire of environmentalists with a proposal to push a toll road through a nature preserve. (story here)

Odom had earlier stepped down as a member of the board for Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

June 29, 2009

Carrie Meek's lobbying up for a vote

When a lobbyist faces a potential conflict of interest, who better to turn to than -- another lobbyist?

Former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek, whose request for a conflict-of-interest waiver is slated to come before the Miami-Dade County Commission tomorrowDownload 091622, has hired prominent legislator-turned-lobbyist Miguel de Grandy as legal counsel, according to a letter to Commission Chairman Dennis Moss. Check out De Grandy's long list of clients that he represents in front of the commission here.

At issue is Meek's representation of both the county and Wackenhut Corp., despite their high-stakes showdown. Miami-Dade says the security company overbilled taxpayers $3.4 million. Wackenhut is suing the county for more than $20 million in damages. Story here.

Meek isn't the only lobbyist asking for a conflict-of-interest waiver tomorrow. So is Gomez Barker, which represents the county in Tallahassee but was involved in cutting Miami-Dade out of a new law that allows counties to raise sales taxes for fire rescue services. Download 091798

County Commissioner Sally Heyman is proposing a change to the conflict-of-interest section of the law that would require the lobbyist and private client to file a joint affidavit that rules out any "success fee."Download 091901 .

Could be an interesting meeting...

David Rivera's mad-cash scramble

Hitting up fellow lawmakers and taxpayer advocates alike, Miami Republican Rep. David Rivera is blasting out emails in a final fundraising pitch for the quarter. Rivera, who faces fellow Miami Republican Rep. Anitere Flores for state senate, reminds anyone with an email list that there's just a day to go to contribute.

At least one lawmaker (anonymously) groused that Rivera was using state email accounts to solicit contributions, however it appears legal. Rivera solicited via his private email account. In his other email pitch, to taxpayer-types, Rivera fashions himself as the property-tax cutter who will stop tax-cutting legislation from dying in the state Senate.

"As you know, this proposal would cap all property taxes at 1.35% of taxable value while preserving Save Our Homes and all Homestead Exemptions.  This plan cuts property taxes in Florida by 26% statewide," Rivera wrote.

"Unfortunately, once again, our effort to bring much needed property tax relief to the people of Florida died in the Florida Senate. 

"Now I have decided to seek an open seat in the Florida Senate and take our fight for lower property taxes directly into that arena."

Another poll, another reminder of Crist lead over Rubio

The latest statewide poll (this one released by Ron Sachs Communications) has popular Gov. Charlie Crist leading 51 percent to 23 percent over former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate Republican primary, with 26 percent undecided.

The poll found Crist enjoys almost total name recognition among Florida Republicans  no surprise given that he is the very visible and media-savvy incumbent. Rubio, out of office for months and never as well known as Crist, is recognized by 52 percent of likely Republican primary voters.

The poll also found that in the Democratic Primary, Congressman Kendrick Meek leads Congresswoman Corrine Brown 27 percent to 12 percent, but nearly two-thirds of voters, 61 percent, remain undecided. Name recognition for both candidates among Democratic voters remains at less than 50 percent.

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Former lieutenant governor Frank Brogan for chancellor?

Add Frank Brogan, Florida Atlantic University President and former lieutenant governor, to the list of people reportedly interested in leading Florida’s public university system.

Brogan, who in 1981 earned his master’s degree from FAU, has not yet submitted an application for the chancellor’s job. Nor did he return phone calls requesting comment. But speculation about his interest has been growing in recent weeks, and several sources close to the search say he plans to apply for the job by next week’s deadline.

The Board of Governors committee leading the national search for a new chancellor plans to hold a conference call on Monday, July 13, to review all applications and decide which of them to interview in person on July 17. That means applications have to be submitted to the search firm by the end of next week, Friday, July 10.

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Another GOP donor on the fence about McCollum

Images Add Miami developer Sergio Pino to the list of big-time Republican fundraisers for Gov. Charlie Crist in South Florida who may support Democrat Alex Sink for governor in 2010 or stay on the sidelines (i.e. Scott Rothstein, Manny Kadre, Rodney Barreto.)

"There's a chance I may support Alex Sink,'' Pino said. "I can't simply support Bill McCollum because he's a Republican."

But Pino added that a call from his good friend former Gov. Jeb Bush -- who is headlining a McCollum fundraiser tomorrow -- could change his mind.

Keechl raises big bucks in county race

Broward County Commissioner Ken Keechl says he has raised about $307,000 for his re-election next year -- a huge sum considering the Democrat doesn't officially have an opponent. None of that is a loan.

The most recent quarter includes a fundraiser hosted by some bigshot Republicans including Bill Scherer, Jim Blosser and Justin Sayfie. Wayne Huizenga dropped by, says Keechl, and Scott Rothstein also wrote the Democrat a check.

County Republican Party Chair Chip LaMarca says Keechl is funding his campaign ''with a lot of downtown business people and developers he campaigned against his first term.''

LaMarca, a Lighthouse Point commissioner, said he hasn't ruled out a bid himself and isn't intimidated by Keechl's cash, but he sounds less enthusiastic about the prospect of running than he did a few months ago. Previously LaMarca said he'd decide by the summer, now he says sometime this year. And he says the District 91 race isn't his main focus and that he doesn't feel he could run for that seat and continue his party chair gig.

Keechl, the current vice mayor, will have key visibility during his campaign next year because his peers will likely choose him as mayor.

Fundraising reports through June are due by July 10.

June 27, 2009

Wash Po: Crist, "The Metrosexual," Jeb, "The Legacy"

In the wake of John Ensign and Mark Sanford's admissions of infidelity, the Washington Post casts a new reality show, GOP 2012.

The cast includes Florida's Crist in the role of "The Metrosexual. Progressive moderate with a really good tan -- but is he too slick?"

And Jeb Bush as "The Legacy. A dynasty's hopes rest on his shoulders -- can he fulfill the promise again?"

Sink orders review of state plane use as more details emerge

King Air Chief Financial Alex Sink has ordered her office to ''conduct a thorough and immediate review'' of her use of the state plane after questions were raised about whether the plane was being used strictly for official duties.

Meanwhile, the Herald/Times review of state plane records reveal more details about how they use the plane. The Herald/Times review found that of the 44 times Sink diverted the plane to bring her to Tampa in the past 2 ½ years, she had official events scheduled in the same city 30 of those days. Attorney General Bill McCollum used the plane less frequently. Of the 53 times the plane flew to Sanford for McCollum -- Sanford is the closest airport to his home -- he only occasionally had events scheduled in the area.

State law prohibits state officials whose office is in Tallahassee from commuting from outside the capital and Sink and McCollum have said they only travel to their hometowns if it's on the way to and from official business.

Read the full story here and here's Steve Bousquet's column about the story behind the story.

Below is a snapshot of several of the flights in which Sink and McCollum diverted the state plane to pick them up or drop them off at the airports closest to their homes.

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