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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

FBI seizes Buddy Johnson records



BuddyTAMPA - The FBI has opened an investigation into the office of former Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson with a subpoena of documents related to a blistering audit that showed Johnson overspent his budget by almost $1-million. The subpoena was served Wednesday on the Tampa office of Ernst & Young, which performed the audit of Johnson's spending, according to Phyllis Busansky, who became elections chief after defeating Johnson in the general election.

Busansky said she called Ernst & Young Wednesday to inquire about a second audit she wants done and was told by Executive Director John DiSanto that another audit might be difficult, since “the FBI just came and took all our working papers.”

Ernst & Young officials declined comment.  An FBI spokesman said the agency was “not in a position to comment on the matter.”

“I think (the FBI) would be very interested in looking at what went on,’’ Busansky said. “They evidently think something was wrong in this office.”

The audit released last week revealed that Johnson broke Florida law by overspending his 2007-2008 budget by $942,022, failed to set up internal controls to monitor spending, improperly handled grant money and missed a statutory deadline to turn in a financial report and any excess monies at year’s end.

Johnson did not return a reporter’s call today. When Busansky took over on January 5, she found the elections office finances in disarray. On top of the budget deficit, Johnson left behind a $2.1-million unpaid bill to Premier Elections Solutions for new optical scan voting equipment which the county commission had already fully financed.

The St. Petersburg Times reported last week that, following his election loss, Johnson sought employment from Premier even as that $2.1-million bill remained unpaid. After reviewing the Ernst & Young findings, the county commission voted unanimously a week ago to provide bailout funds to Busansky and to forward the audit to several law enforcement agencies, including the FBI.

-- Times staff writer Jeff Testerman

[Last modified: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 3:21pm]


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