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Exiting CEO of Enterprise Florida enjoys travel, monetary perks

TALLAHASSEE — Bill Johnson abruptly announced last month that he is leaving as Florida Secretary of Commerce, but the travel — and monetary — perks for the state's top economic development recruiter are still rolling in.

Johnson, who is also stepping down as CEO of Enterprise Florida, has already collected more than $1 million in retirement benefits from taxpayers since July and stands to gain $132,500 more in June when his Enterprise Florida severance package kicks in. Plus, he'll join state job recruiters on two more international trips over the next two months.

When a contingent of Florida business and government officials head for Korea and Taiwan on Friday to start a nine-day trade mission, Johnson will be among them. Then in May, Johnson is accompanying a four-day Enterprise Florida trade mission to Mexico City.

"Bill Johnson is still the president and CEO of Enterprise Florida," Stephen Lawson, director of communications for Enterprise Florida, said in justifying the trips.

Johnson committed to those trips before it was announced March 28 that he was leaving Enterprise Florida according to Fort Lauderdale attorney Alan Becker, vice chairman of Enterprise Florida's board of directors. Business leaders from Florida on those trips and international companies are expecting to see Johnson on those missions, Becker said.

"You don't just abandon them," Becker said, noting that Gov. Rick Scott has not yet announced a replacement for Johnson.

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