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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Findings removed from final auditor's report on state plane use

30

June

Bill mccollum close Alex Sink close Top Florida officials misused state resources to travel between the capital and their homes, costing taxpayers at least $51,000 and raising potential IRS violations, according to state investigators' findings that were removed from a final auditor's report.

Meanwhile, Tallahassee lawyer Jose Blas Lorenzo Jr. also filed an ethics complaint Monday accusing Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink of ''abusive, unauthorized use of state aircraft'' following reports by the Herald/Times and other news outlets.

Sink, along with Attorney General Bill McCollum and Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, spent $51,000 of taxpayer money from July 1, 2008, through Feb. 15, 2009, commuting to their homes or taking ''unnecessary legs during business trips,'' according to the Department of Management Services' March 3 audit. Sink spent the most -- $27,200 -- while McCollum spent $12,600 and Kottkamp spent $9,900, according to auditors. 

But those details, as well as recommendations and conclusions, were left out of the final report. "We did not have any manpower to further investigate that," said Cathy Schroeder, DMS spokeswoman. 

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Read full story here. Examples follow:

An audit by the Office of Inspector General was completed March 3 but the working papers weren't released until Monday, at the Herald/Times, request. The audit examined the cost to taxpayers of trips taken by top state officials on the state plane and found that state officials appeared to be using the state plane to commute to their homes outside Tallahassee, in apparent violation of state law. Among the findings of the audit, which covered the period from July 1, 2008, through Feb. 15, 2009:  

Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp cost taxpayers $9,894.80.  

Attorney General Bill McCollum cost taxpayers $12,604.  

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink cost taxpayers $27,197.50.

Here are examples from the documents released Monday:  

SINK

  • Oct. 16, 2008: The plane and a Sink staffer leave Tallahassee for St. Petersburg at
    6:40 a.m. Cost: $2,460.80. Sink and her staffer then returned to Tallahassee at 11:15 a.m.
    Cost: $2,460.80. Auditors concluded the total cost of the trip, $4,921.60, could have been
    avoided had the plane not been sent "to pick up CFO Sink."   
  • July 21, 2008: The plane and a Sink staffer leave Tallahassee for West Palm Beach at
    11:40 a.m. Cost: $3,493. Sink and her staffer then returned to Tallahassee at 1:00 p.m..
    Cost: $3,842.30. Auditors concluded the total cost of the trip, $7,335.30, could have been
    avoided had the plane not been sent "to pick up CFO Sink."

McCOLLUM  

  •  Oct. 2-3, 2008: The empty plane leaves Tallahassee at 8:40 a.m. for Sanford. Cost:
    $2,768.40. The plane picks up McCollum and takes him to Sarasota. Cost: $2,153.20.
  •  The next morning, the plane takes McCollum from Sarasota to Fort Lauderdale. Cost:
    $2,460.80. He leaves Fort Lauderdale late that night and flies to Sanford, arriving at
    10:10 p.m., at a cost of $2,460.80. McCollum gets off; the empty plane returns to
    Tallahassee. Cost: $2,768.40. Auditors concluded that had McCollum been in Tallahassee and
    the plane not "ferried'' him to and from Sanford, the state could have saved $3,691.20
  • Dec. 20, 2008: The empty plane leaves Tallahassee at 10:05 a.m. for Sanford and
    picks up McCollum. Cost: $2,460.80. The plane takes him to St. Petersburg -- at a cost of
    $1,538 -- and then drops him off in Sanford, at a cost of $1,230.40. The empty plane flies
    from Sanford to Tallahassee. Cost: $2,460.80. Auditors concluded that had McCollum been in
    Tallahassee, the trip would have cost the state $2,768.40 less.
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[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 4:49pm]

    

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