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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

State lawmakers refuse to audit biker safety group



ABATE of Florida is a statewide group that holds noisy and well-attended rallies in the Capitol every year as it speaks for the interests of motorcyclists. But ABATE itself was briefly on the hot seat Monday as a lawmaker questioned the way the group spends state money it receives each year.

Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka, a member of the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, said ABATE has received nearly $1-million since 2005 to promote biker safety awareness -- money it has spent on key chains, kickstands, silicone bracelets and tote bags. But it quickly became obvious that Nelson lacked the votes on the nine-member committee to get an audit, in part because ABATE's contract with the state permits spending money on "promotional materials," "expenses toward promotional events" and "any other needs with the express purpose of promoting biker safety/training to include promotional products."

ABATE President James "Doc" Reichenbach testified on behalf of the agency's expenditures with a single vendor, Independent Resources Inc., a Tampa company. Reichenbach said the vendor was recommended by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Nelson withdrew his request for an audit and the issue fizzled, with a few lawmakers saying they would like to look at ABATE's contract with the state.

In addition, ABATE hired auditor Michael Steuer of Clearwater, who reviewed the spending and concluded: "ABATE of Florida Inc. has disbursed funds in accordance with the requirements of the contractual agreement."    

[Last modified: Monday, October 3, 2011 1:48pm]


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