Friday, September 21, 2018
Business

After questions, Port Tampa Bay commissions outside audit of promotional spending

TAMPA — Six months after television news reports raised pointed questions about port officials’ restaurant and entertainment spending, Port Tampa Bay CEO Paul Anderson said Tuesday he is commissioning an outside audit of the port’s business development and promotional spending for the past three years.

It is, he said, an exercise in "utmost transparency" and expects that it will help show how the port has grown its business by recruiting new and different kinds of tenants as well as retaining existing tenants.

"I want to assure this board and community that we’re going above and beyond to make our procedures and operating practices available for public examination," Anderson told the port’s board at its monthly meeting.

The Tampa accounting firm of Rivero, Gordimer & Company will conduct the audit, which is expected to cost less than $100,000 and will look at business development and promotional expenditures since Jan. 1, 2014. Port officials said promotional spending, which includes the cost of hosting, participating in or traveling to about 70 business development events a year, averages about 2 percent of operating revenues.

"We have nothing to hide, and we are proud of what we are doing here to grow this port," Anderson said after the meeting. "It’s a good way to assure any stakeholders that we’ve been doing exactly what our policies directed us to do and operate under and now we’re looking forward."

The audit Anderson is ordering will be in addition to an auditing procedure launched in August to have the same firm review all employee expenses as well as more general comprehensive agency audits done annually by third-party auditors.

"I want to commend you on that," port board member Gregory Celestan told Anderson. "I think that is courageous. I think it is necessary in the current environment. And I think it is the right thing to do."

In June, ABC Action News reported that port executives had charged the port $30,000 for golf club memberships and outings, thousands of dollars for season tickets to the Tampa Bay Lightning and more than $36,000 for meals at restaurants such as Ulele and the Columbia.

"Not the port’s finest hour," Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a port board member, said last month in his evaluation of Anderson, who generally was praised by board members and received a raise totalling 4.5 percent coming off a year of record revenues.

In August, Gov. Rick Scott said the news reports concerned him, so he appointed Mike Griffin, then the chairman of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, to the port’s board and recommended the port pass stronger policies "to prevent wasteful spending by employees."

Two weeks later, the port board prohibited employees from charging golf club memberships or Lightning season tickets. It also tightened requirements for documenting travel expenses and required employees to attend training about the new policy.

Some employees also reimbursed the port for meals or other spending. Anderson’s reimbursements totalled about $13,599. Ed Miyagishima, who left a job as the port’s former vice president of communications and external affairs in March, reimbursed the port $11,151. Other employee reimbursements were significantly smaller.

In September, House Speaker Richard Corcoran cited the news reports about "possible excessive spending" and demanded a long list of records related to port employees’ use of agency credit cards, the approval of such spending, guests whom the port entertained, expenses for entertainment and marketing events, and travel expenses, plus information about port revenues from property taxes and the debt that it owes.

"While Port Tampa Bay now has adopted new policies in an effort to rein in that spending, the House seeks to understand how the new policies will adequately prevent inappropriate and wasteful expenditures going forward," Corcoran said in a letter requesting the records.

In response, the port boxed up an estimated 100,000 documents and sent them to Corcoran’s office last Friday.

"We fully complied with the speaker’s request" and "supplied everything that they asked for," Anderson said. "We know we’re doing our job. We’re seeing the results of doing what you do to grow business at ports and attract global companies to come to this port. We need to tell this great story we have."

Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

Comments
Tampa General nurses record the last heartbeats of dying patients, making a family memory

Tampa General nurses record the last heartbeats of dying patients, making a family memory

TAMPA — As John Reisinger waited with family at Tampa General Hospital, grief settled in like a fog. So some of the details are hazy.But he remembers the moment when three women in white lab coats approached him.The day before, his niece, Jessica Rau...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Retro Fitness sets first of several area locations in Citrus Park

Retro Fitness sets first of several area locations in Citrus Park

In early fall, Retro Fitness will open a 17,000 square foot fitness facility in Citrus Park, and it plans for more Tampa Bay area locations.Founded in 2005, Retro Fitness has 153 clubs throughout the United States and is the official fitness center o...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Joe and Son's Olive Oils, a legacy Ybor business, finds new roots in Carrollwood

Joe and Son's Olive Oils, a legacy Ybor business, finds new roots in Carrollwood

Andrea Gebbia grew up in Carrollwood, and now she is bringing the family business to the neighborhood of her youth.In late fall, Joe and Son’s Olive Oils is slated to open a second location."I feel so blessed having the ability to grow my...
Updated: 10 hours ago
The guys who brought you Tampa’s Armature Works plan high-end offices next door, and they’ve already signed a lease with med-tech company AxoGen

The guys who brought you Tampa’s Armature Works plan high-end offices next door, and they’ve already signed a lease with med-tech company AxoGen

TAMPA — Coming soon from the developers who brought you the Armature Works: Heights Union, two high-end office buildings next door to the trendy food hall, event space and co-working complex overlooking the Hillsborough River.Developers said Friday t...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Chi Chop + Kung Fu Tea looks to succeed where others failed

Chi Chop + Kung Fu Tea looks to succeed where others failed

RIVEVIEW – Amy Lin knows that her newest Chi Chop + Kung Fu Tea store is in a location where previous businesses have not lasted.The short-lived Tap’s Brewhouse & Deli and even shorter-lived Top Shelf Sports Bar and Grill tried to r...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Walmart is teaming with a Seminole Heights chef to promote locally grown mushrooms

Walmart is teaming with a Seminole Heights chef to promote locally grown mushrooms

TAMPA — It might seem like an unlikely match from the outside: A distinguished chef with a restaurant known for inventive plates using produce shoppers can find at… Walmart?Walmart, the country’s largest grocer, is known for having a core consumer wh...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Federal loans open to Pinellas businesses struggling against Red Tide

Federal loans open to Pinellas businesses struggling against Red Tide

The U.S. Small Business Administration has extended its disaster loan program to include Pinellas and Pasco county businesses affected by Red Tide.Already, the Pinellas County Economic Development Office was taking applications for bridge loans to he...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Watch: A southern white rhinoceros calf just a week after being born at ZooTampa

Watch: A southern white rhinoceros calf just a week after being born at ZooTampa

TAMPA — A southern white rhinoceros gave birth to a calf at ZooTampa on Sept. 12, marking the sixth successful birth of the species in the zoo's history. In a news release, ZooTampa said southern white rhinoceroses are a nearly threatened spec...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Baggers, cashiers soon can grow beards at Publix

Baggers, cashiers soon can grow beards at Publix

ORLANDO — The faces of baggers, cashiers and stockers at a Florida-based grocery chain may look slightly different in the near future.That's because Publix said Friday that it would start allowing workers to grow beards and other facial hair b...
Published: 09/21/18
They spent $15,000 adding a driveway to their St. Pete House. Now the city says they can’t park on it

They spent $15,000 adding a driveway to their St. Pete House. Now the city says they can’t park on it

ST. PETERSBURG — One day in January, Dana Cremo was on her front porch hanging a vintage screen door when two city employees walked up. "You can’t park on your driveway," they said. "Why?" she asked. "Because somebody filed a complaint," they said. F...
Published: 09/21/18