Gov. Rick Scott is counting on the attention of recent media reports and the appointment of a new board member will put an end to questionable spending habits at the Tampa Port Authority.
“Governor Scott was concerned to see recent media reports detailing wasteful spending by the executives at Port Tampa Bay,” a spokesperson said when asked Wednesday about the situation at the port. “We look forward to the Tampa Port Authority Governing Board reviewing policies to prevent wasteful spending by employees.
The authority enacted a new spending and expense policy last week following media reports of excessive spending by port executives.
WFTS in Tampa reported earlier this summer that the authority’s CEO Paul Anderson and seven other executives spent more than $870,000 on their business credit cards over the past three years.
The taxpayer dollars went to buy season tickets for the Tampa Bay Lightning, dinners at expensive restaurants and $30,000 in golf memberships and outings.
One of the port’s executives resigned two days after WFTS aired its initial report and was forced to reimburse the port for $11,000 in expenses that included bar tabs and flowers.
Scott is a big supporter of Florida’s ports and sees them as an integral part of the state’s continued economic development.
Two weeks ago, in announcing the appointment of a new member to the authority, Scott expressed concern about the reports of expensive spending by executives.
“The actions detailed in these reports should serve as a reminder of the importance of the oversight every appointee is charged with providing,” Scott said in announcing the appointment of Mike Griffin to the authority.
Griffin, 36, is a Tampa businessman and chair of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.
“I look forward to the Tampa Port Authority governing board reviewing policies to prevent wasteful spending by employees,” Scott added.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran expressed concern when WFTS asked him about his reaction to the spending practices by authority executives.
“It’s absolutely wasteful spending. It’s taxpayer dollars whether direct or indirect it’s taxpayers’ money,” Corcoran told WFTS. “You got some single mom coming home every day working two jobs as a waitress trying to make the basic bills and cover them and you have this kind of spending going on with her money that you’re taking from her, that’s inexcusable.”
The speaker told WFTS he is directing the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee to look into the authority’s spending practices.
“You’ve done some great investigative reports on this. The team has already looked at all of your investigative reports, we’re beginning the process of gathering those public records and then going through and seeing what the recourse is we can have. We know we have recourse, we want to chose the most effective one to make it stop,” Corcoran said.
While Corcoran was quick to talk three weeks ago about the House committee review, when pressed for an update on the committee’s work, it took the Speaker’s Office several days to respond with the following comment: “We are still gathering information on this matter.”