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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

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.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 1:10pm]


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