Monday, May 21, 2018
News Roundup

CFO Jeff Atwater, Gov. Rick Scott settle 'Taj Mahal' art case

TALLAHASSEE — After two years, two lawsuits and seven appeals, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday agreed to pay Signature Art Gallery for framed photos ordered by judges at the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Instead of the $357,000 tab due when the photographs were completed, the state will pay almost $515,000, a price that includes storage and legal fees paid by the gallery owner.

The payment must be approved by members of the Legislative Budget Commission at a meeting in January. Once paid for, the art will go to the Department of State's Division of Cultural Affairs. If the Commission rejects the payment, the lawsuit will continue.

Scott and Atwater said the settlement, helped along by court-ordered mediation, is in the state's best interest. It will end expensive litigation and safeguard taxpayer money while also signaling that the state's contracting system "must be cost effective, accountable and transparent,'' they said in a joint release.

The settlement was announced Tuesday, the day Atwater had been scheduled to answer questions under oath from lawyers who represent the gallery and Peter R. Brown Construction of Clearwater.

The nearly 400 framed historical photos are of watermelon festivals, tobacco farms, lighthouses, greased pig contests and dozens of other North Florida places. The photos and frames, selected by judges at the appellate court after they saw similar photos posted in legislative halls, were to hang in hallways throughout the building which many have dubbed a "Taj Mahal'' because it has miles of African mahogany, granite countertops and desks.

Mary Maida, owner of the gallery, had a signed contract with the construction company that was approved by the Department of Management Services but payment was derailed by Atwater and his predecessor, Alex Sink.

Sink questioned an expenditure on art that would apparently violate a state law that limits expenditures on art in public buildings to $100,000. Atwater questioned whether the state could legally use money budgeted for construction of the building for photographs.

In a statement, Maida said: "I am pleased that we were able to reach an agreement so that my small business can be paid. … I am hopeful that the Legislative Budget Commission will approve the agreement."

Comments
Prepare yourselves: Golden Knights will be talk of the Stanley Cup final

Prepare yourselves: Golden Knights will be talk of the Stanley Cup final

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It's incredible. Unbelievable, really. Maybe the best sports story in this country and the sport of hockey since 1980's Miracle on Ice.And, as a side note, if the Lightning reaches the Stanley Cup final, everyone in the count...
Updated: 4 minutes ago
Oscar Mayer asked people to tweet photos of hot dog toppings. They got toothpaste and Pepto.

Oscar Mayer asked people to tweet photos of hot dog toppings. They got toothpaste and Pepto.

Oscar Mayer last week asked people on Twitter to tweet a photo at them of toppings on their new hot dogs — which the company described as "improved."The payoff? A year’s supply of hot dogs hand-delivered by none other than the iconic Wienermobile.Sha...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Less than one year after historic flooding, Alafia River spills its banks again

Less than one year after historic flooding, Alafia River spills its banks again

LITHIA — Frank Rodriguez was still several hundred yards from his house Monday when he pulled his SUV to the side of the road and changed into a pair of beach shoes.Ahead of him, the way home along River Drive was submerged. He was spared a wade thro...
Updated: 17 minutes ago

Company that spilled fertilizer at Tampa port says not as much hit the water

The company that on Friday reported spilling 2 tons of fertilizer into a channel feeding into Tampa Bay says now that the amount was far smaller — 200 pounds, at most.Both Kinder Morgan, which spilled the fertilizer, and the state Department of Envir...
Updated: 24 minutes ago

FDLE: Pasco couple scammed elderly employer out of $480,000

TAMPA — A Pasco County couple face dozens of charges after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said they stole more than $480,000 from their elderly employer.Chet Alan Ragsdale, 45, was arrested Monday on 28 counts of grand theft, 25 counts of ...
Updated: 24 minutes ago
4 sinkholes open in The Villages retirement community

4 sinkholes open in The Villages retirement community

THE VILLAGES — Four sinkholes have opened up in a fast-growing retirement community in Florida, including one in front of a home that was abandoned months ago because of an earlier sinkhole. A spokeswoman for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office says t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Shoppers begin Publix boycott as chain continues supporting Adam Putnam for governor

Shoppers begin Publix boycott as chain continues supporting Adam Putnam for governor

Publix has been Florida’s favorite grocery chain for decades — but some shoppers are turning their backs on the store after learning it donated more than half a million dollars to gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam. A handful of state advocacy group...
Updated: 1 hour ago
There’s a swing by Rays CF Kevin Kiermaier …. and a gender reveal for November baby

There’s a swing by Rays CF Kevin Kiermaier …. and a gender reveal for November baby

Tampa Bay Rays OF Kevin Kiermaier and his wife Marisa are having a boy.Kiermaier shared the news on Twitter over the weekend in a most appropriate themed gender reveal event — taking a swing at ball that exploded with blue powder.Looks like im ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 1 hour ago