Pinellas Commission gifts include $4,600 in dinners, events, truck use and books
This May, Pinellas County Commissioner Nancy Bostock attended a climate conference by the Heartland Institute, a conservative/libertarian think tank that advocates against government action on global warming, and against tougher government restrictions and taxes, such as on tobacco use. No surprise for the board's conservative voice.
But it amounted to $1,879 in gifts of travel fees ($1,047), hotel expenses ($400) and conference costs ($432), according to disclosures she filed with the state.
Bostock's gifts were among more than $4,600 reported since 2008 by Bostock and fellow Commissioners Neil Brickfield, John Morroni and Karen Seel.
Seel reported $2,000 in gifts, including an $800 hospice ball and hotel room from longtime Largo civic leader George Feaster, four baseball tickets ($100) from Clearwater Gas, and a $300 dinner from development attorney Jerry Figurski and his wife, Melody, among others.
Brickfield's gifts included use of a truck for 10 days worth $500, and 24 books from political blogger/consultant Peter Schorsch with no value listed. Public officials have to report any gifts of more than $100 from nonrelatives.
Morroni reported $198 for Rays baseball tickets from the city of St. Petersburg. Commissioner Calvin Harris initially reported baseball tickets as gifts, but rescinded the filing after paying for them, according to records.
The largest single quarterly report was Bostock's conference. The institute's website describes the Fourth International Conference on Climate Change by saying:
"The theme for ICCC-4 will be 'Reconsidering the Science and Economics.' New scientific discoveries are casting doubt on how much of the warming of the twentieth century was natural and how much was man-made, and governments around the world are beginning to confront the astronomical cost of reducing emissions. Economists, meanwhile, are calculating that the cost of slowing or stopping global warming exceeds the social benefits."
The travel charge was high because Bostock had to reschedule flights after the death of her grandfather, Bostock said. She picked up her own meals and no county money was used. The conference, which was geared toward policymakers, focused on science as well as policy, making it a good trip. Bostock said she also was able to network with other attendees, who included more state lawmakers than local ones.
While she debated filing a disclosure -- "educational" events can be exempt -- she decided to disclose it. The nonprofit institute advocates on various policy fronts too. "I feel like this was a good educational conference," Bostock said.