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State pays for 55 of health chief's weekend trips to S. Florida

IMG_1805 Dr. Ana Viamonte Ros, Florida's top health official, has spent nearly $130,000 on taxpayer-funded travel in her first three years on the job and has spent at least a third of her weekends in her hometown of Miami.

The state surgeon general's travel pattern has not changed despite a belt-tightening edict a year ago from Gov. Charlie Crist's office and recent scrutiny of state travel by agency heads.

Viamonte Ros said her trips to South Florida took her to an "important hub" that allows her to reach Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Broward and Collier counties and the Keys.

"If I did stay over a weekend, it was always at my own home and no expense at all to the state, and I was always back immediately first thing in the morning on Monday," Viamonte Ros said.

To be sure, all trips included official speaking events or meetings. Viamonte Ros reimbursed the state when she used her rental car on off days. Staying at her Coral Gables condo saved money on hotels.

But the trips at taxpayers' expense allowed the surgeon general to spend time at home on most holidays and many weekends. (Full story here)