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Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp racks up $1.1M in security, travel costs

TALLAHASSEE — Four years of security and travel expenses for Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp cost taxpayers more than $1 million and will lead to tighter travel rules for his successor.

The bottom line on travel and security for a position with no formal job description other than to stand in for the governor when needed: $1,128,605.

Costs include $856,000 in salaries for Florida Highway Patrol troopers who are required to protect the lieutenant governor; $72,000 for the troopers' air travel when Kottkamp was flying; $52,000 for gasoline for Kottkamp's state-owned SUVs; $44,000 for hotel rooms; $11,000 for three in-state charter flights when no state aircraft was available; and $5,000 for rental cars. The figure does not include Kottkamp's extensive use of state aircraft or other flight costs.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles added up Kottkamp's travel at the request of the Senate staff, which has been taking a larger look at state costs. The highway safety agency runs the Florida Highway Patrol, which provides security for the lieutenant governor.

"We are tightening our belt agencywide and looking at ways to conduct every aspect of our business in a more fiscally prudent manner, and the security detail that we provide to the governor's office is no exception," agency spokeswoman Courtney Heidelberg said.

The state did not make a distinction between official and personal trips. By law, the FHP is responsible for protecting Kottkamp at all times.

Heidelberg said security procedures will be tightened for the new administration, but she could not discuss details because of safety considerations.

"We will establish clear protocols as to the nature and scope of the detail," Heidelberg said.

Kottkamp, 50, will leave office Tuesday when his successor, former state Rep. Jennifer Carroll of Fleming Island, is sworn in as the 18th lieutenant governor.

Saying he hadn't reviewed the report, Kottkamp initially declined to comment on the costs. After being provided a copy by the Times/Herald, he issued a brief statement: "All decisions related to the security detail, including approval of expenses, are made by the DHSMV."

Comparable travel and security cost information for previous lieutenant governors was unavailable, and it is difficult to contrast Kottkamp's expenses with those of Gov. Charlie Crist or state Cabinet officers because the lieutenant governor is the only one with an FHP security detail. Crist, for instance, is guarded by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Kottkamp's travel tab would have been higher if he had gotten approval in November to take a state trooper, Capt. Alan Compton, on a two-week personal family vacation to Italy. State highway safety director Julie Jones rejected the request, calling it "not a wise use of the state's resources."

But taxpayers did pay for Kottkamp to stay at the Loews Portofino Bay hotel in Orlando, where the rooms feature "marble accents and elegant furnishings from Italy," according to its website; the Omni in San Diego; the Sonnenalp Resort in Vail, Colo.; the Biltmore in Coral Gables; the Sawgrass Marriott in Ponte Vedra Beach; and Hyatt hotels in Orlando and West Palm Beach.

The state even spent $1,500 to install a burglar alarm at Kottkamp's Tallahassee home to reduce the cost of having a trooper watch the home around the clock.

The agency eliminated the security system in September when agency officials scrutinized expenditures. The vendor, ADT, reimbursed the state $381.

Another $483 went for a portable navigation unit from Best Buy, and a backpack cost $143.

The job of lieutenant governor was dormant from 1887 until 1968, when voters re-created it as part of the modern state Constitution. During that time, the president of the Senate was next in line for succession to the governor.

For much of Kottkamp's term, questions about travel have dogged him, including his frequent use of the state plane in 2007 and 2008 for travel between the capital and his hometown of Fort Myers. The lawyer and former Republican state lawmaker once tried to reimburse the state for trips in which his wife and son also flew, but the state wouldn't accept his check. An ethics complaint accusing him of travel abuses was dismissed in December 2009.

Amid media scrutiny of his travel, Kottkamp switched to less costly car trips last year as he mounted an unsuccessful campaign for attorney general. After he lost the Republican primary to Pam Bondi, he began using the state plane again on occasion.

A typical travel day was Tuesday, Oct. 26, when Kottkamp flew from Tallahassee to Orlando, then drove to Cocoa Beach for an Air Force Week proclamation ceremony at the municipal pier. He stayed 45 minutes and made brief remarks. Then he flew back to Tallahassee.

Kottkamp never made it a secret that he liked to travel.

Weeks after he and Gov. Crist were sworn in to office in 2007, Kottkamp told the Naples Daily News: "As much as we love Tallahassee, it is not the center of the universe. The governor and I feel it's important for us to get around the state. We try to stay in tune with everyone."

The lieutenant governor's use of state aircraft likely won't be an issue for the next occupant. Gov.-elect Rick Scott has declared the plane unnecessary and said he plans to sell it.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp racks up $1.1M in security, travel costs 12/31/10 [Last modified: Friday, December 31, 2010 10:02pm]
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