Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

'Taj Mahal' judges, officials invited to testify before Senate committee

TALLAHASSEE — Two judges and other officials who participated in the planning of the new 1st District Court of Appeal building have been invited to explain the lavish courthouse at a state Senate committee meeting in January.

Opened this week, the building has been labeled the "Taj Mahal'' by critics who say its African mahogany, granite surfaces, bathrooms and kitchens for every judge are over the top for a government project built during a recession.

Sen. Mike Fasano, chairman of the Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee, sent invitations late Tuesday to Judges Paul M. Hawkes and Brad Thomas; Department of Management Services Secretary Linda South; and State Court Administrator Lisa Goodner. The New Port Richey Republican said he also plans to invite the construction manager from Peter G. Brown Inc., which managed the contract.

Hawkes and Thomas, both former legislative staffers who also worked on Gov. Jeb Bush's budget staff, led a lobbying campaign over several years to raise money for the $48.8 million project. The bulk of the money came from a $33.5 million bond issue authorized in a transportation bill on the final day of the 2007 legislative session.

Fasano toured the building earlier this month and was "disgusted'' with the abuse of taxpayer funds. He said he wants to hear testimony that might help legislators prevent a repeat. Fasano has also suggested giving the structure to the Florida Supreme Court or forcing the district court to share office space with the court system's administrative staff, now housed in rental quarters at a cost of about $300,000 a year.

Hawkes, in an e-mail, had no comment except to say "thank you'' after a St. Petersburg Times reporter shared Fasano's letter. Thomas did not respond to a request for comment.

South, who hadn't seen the letter, said she doesn't plan to be in Tallahassee in January and won't attend the meeting. She was appointed to head the agency that serves as the state's landlord by Gov. Charlie Crist and will leave office next month.

'Taj Mahal' judges, officials invited to testify before Senate committee 12/21/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 21, 2010 8:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. After offseason of work hard, play hard, DeSean Jackson ready to produce for Bucs

    Bucs

    TAMPA — There's no telling what DeSean Jackson will do once he gets a football in his hands. Perhaps that's why a camera crew followed his every move Wednesday while the Bucs' new $30 million receiver stood on a step of the hot tub that empties into a spacious, azure pool at his new, sprawling five-bedroom home in …

    DeSean Jackson jokes around with girlfriend Kayla Phillips at their Tampa home as a crew from HBO’s Hard Knocks documents their day.
  2. Trump announces $10 billion Foxconn plant in Wisconsin

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that electronics giant Foxconn will build a $10 billion factory in Wisconsin that's expected to initially create 3,000 jobs, the largest economic development project in state history.

    President Donald Trump embraces Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the East Room of the White House during an announcement Wednesday that Foxconn is going to build a plant in Wisconsin.
  3. Playoff chase heats up for Rays with key series at Yankees up first (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    It was important that Evan Longoria crushed a two-run homer in the sixth inning Wednesday and Steven Souza Jr. blasted a solo shot off the farthest catwalk an inning later.

    Adeiny Hechavarria (11) and Tim Beckham (1) celebrate the double play to end the top of the sixth inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. Conservatives come to Sessions' defense amid Trump attacks

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans and influential conservatives rallied around Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday as President Donald Trump kept up his public pelting of the nation's top law enforcement officer and left his future in doubt.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions
  5. Jones: Alex Cobb proves again why he's Rays' stopper, no matter how long he's here (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    If a team hopes to hang around the pennant race, it better have an ace. A stopper. A pitcher it can count on every fifth day to stop the bleeding, keep a winning streak going or flat-out win a game that a team flat-out needs to win.

    Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing the first inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]