Visit Tampa Bay turns over its operation details to House Republicans
TAMPA — Hillsborough County’s tourism marketing firm said Wednesday it has complied with demands from House Speaker Richard Corcoran to release detailed financial information on its operations, though the organization maintains it shouldn't have to.
Hours before a 6 p.m. deadline, Visit Tampa Bay sent Tallahassee hundreds of pages of documents on its operations. The organization, a non-profit hired by the county to market the area to tourists, also made the information available to the Tampa Bay Times, the first time Visit Tampa Bay has publicly disclosed certain details about its operation.
The information includes salaries for all of its employees plus thousands of dollars in bonuses to two dozen of its top executives and others. For example, CEO and President Santiago Corrada last year received a $66,509 bonus in addition to his $273,000 in base salary.
In 2016, Visit Tampa Bay received $12.5 million from Hillsborough County tourist development taxes, which are collected on each night's stay at hotels, motels, RV parks and other shot-term rentals.
Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, had requested local tourism marketing spending, including salaries and expenses on travel and food, from 13 jurisdictions as part of his crusade against government spending on tourism and economic development. Hillsborough County replied, however, Visit Tampa Bay at the time was not willing to provide more details on its operations.
On Friday, Corcoran told the Times he would subpoena the agency and threatened to sue them if they didn’t offer more details. In a letter to Corrada, Rep. Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud, gave Corrada until Wednesday to comply.
Corrada said the information provided to House Republicans was “more robust than other responses they have received.” He also defended the organization’s past position on transparency and the work Visit Tampa Bay has done driving tourists to the region.
“On this occasion, as a small private company, we decided it is was best to honor the Speaker’s unusual request and open our books,” Corrada said in a statement. “We are doing this to maintain our commitment to our community – a community that sees the benefits of tourism marketing every day.”
The disclosure comes as lawmakers in Tallahassee gather to discuss Corcoran's plan to ax Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida.
Corcoran spokesman Fred Piccolo said the information received was “voluminous” and it’s not readily clear if it meets the speaker’s demand.
This is story is developing.