Lottery contract to Vasilinda raises concerns
Just before the close of business Tuesday, the Florida Lottery announced its intent to award a lucrative production contract to Mike Vasilinda, a TV news reporter who also owns a side production business.
(To see the the announcement, click here: Download LotteryContract)
Under the proposal, Vasilinda's company would film and produce the nightly lottery drawings for the next five years for $4.1 million.
The losing bidder, C.B. Lorch of Evolution Media Inc., cried foul. Lorch said he could do the job for about $120,000 less. He also noted that Vasilinda's wife, state Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, sits on the Governmental Operations Appropriations Committee -- which oversees the lottery.
Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, said her husband has been producing the lottery drawings for 13 years, which is two years before the couple met.
"That's the decision the lottery made. I had nothing to do with it," she said. "The guy's done a good job on his contract, apparently."
Rehwinkel Vasilinda, who made $82,833 from her husband's company last year, added that she would recuse herself from any votes on the committee if there was a direct conflict of interest.
Lottery spokeswoman Jackie Barreiros said the marriage did not play a part in the decision to award the contract.
"I don't believe that would have been taken into account," she said. "It wasn't like we just went out and selected a company."
Barreiros pointed to a comptetitive bidding process that judges each bid on a number of factors, with most of the weight given to the company's experience and the quality of the sample productions. Under that system, Vasilinda's bid received a 493.5 score and Lorch's received a 450. The agency does not necessarily have to pick the lowest bid.Jill Chamberlin, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Larry Cretul, said she did not have an immediate comment about whether Rehwinkel Vasilinda's committee post is a conflict.