The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Lottery contract to Vasilinda raises concerns

16

December

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.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 2:10pm]

    

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