Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida House wants agency chiefs to move to Tallahassee area

TALLAHASSEE — Most agency heads and other top state workers would be required to live near the state capital and compile reports every three months of how much they spend on job-related travel under a budget proposal released Friday by the Florida House.

The effort comes in response to a series of stories by the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau detailing the travel costs of three agency directors under Gov. Charlie Crist. In each case, records showed a pattern of commuting to the person's hometown on the weekends.

"We've seen a lot of reports of agency heads working weekdays in Tallahassee and then doing a lot of travel to their places of residence," said House budget chief David Rivera, R-Miami. "I think a lot of taxpayers want to know that the agency heads are working and living in the Tallahassee area."

In late January, Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Frank Peterman reimbursed the state $25,630 in expenses that Crist's chief inspector general found unjustified. Most of the travel tab was for commercial flights between Tallahassee and Tampa; Peterman's family and primary home are in St. Petersburg.

The House proposal requires most agency heads appointed after July 1 to "establish a permanent residency in or within 50 miles of Leon County." All three parole commissioners and the five public service commissioners would also have to live close to the capital.

Agency directors also would have to submit a quarterly report of all travel expenses to legislative leaders. Reports would include the justification for each trip, the amount of hotel expenses, the distance traveled and the method of travel.

The legislation spells out 20 state agencies the rules would apply to, leaving out Cabinet-level posts such as attorney general and chief financial officer. A handful of other agencies would also be exempt, though it's unclear why.

Though the bill is not retroactive, most current directors are Tallahassee residents. Only four maintain homestead exemptions and are registered to vote outside Leon County: Peterman, Surgeon General Ana Viamonte Ros, elder affairs chief Douglas Beach and Secretary of State Kurt Browning, who rents a townhouse in Tallahassee.

In a phone interview, Crist said he did not yet have a reaction to the proposal.

In addition to Peterman, the Times/Herald chronicled the travel patterns of Viamonte Ros, who oversees the Department of Health, and Beach. Browning's travel is not in question.

The state paid for 55 weekend trips to Miami for Viamonte Ros during her three-year tenure. Beach was reimbursed for more than 80 trips with some time in the Orlando area, near his Winter Park home. Each trip coincided with an official function but also allowed extended weekends at home.

The surgeon general's $3,600 average monthly travel tab far exceeds those of Peterman ($1,800) and Beach ($2,100). Her agency also has the second-largest number of state workers.

Peterman owns a house in Tallahassee and a homestead property in St. Petersburg where his family lives. Viamonte Ros and Beach each rent apartments in Tallahassee. All are registered to vote in their respective hometowns.

Sen. J.D. Alexander, the Senate's budget chairman, said he also plans to curtail agency travel. He wants to encourage conference calls instead of traveling to meetings and reduce all travel budgets by an equal amount. But he said he would consider the residency requirement.

"Clearly we don't need folks jumping on airplanes and going home," Alexander said, or "manufacturing meetings" to get a state-funded weekend with family.

Sen. Victor Crist, a Tampa Republican who oversees Peterman's budget, said his travel expenses "looked exceptionally high at a time when we need to be conserving." But, the senator said he is unsure if he would support the residency requirement.

In addition to Peterman, his chief of staff Kelly Layman is also facing budget heat. Orlando Rep. Sandy Adams, who writes the criminal justice budget for the House, has recommended eliminating her position, which pays $137,000 in salary and benefits. Adams also suggested removing the chief of staff for the Department of Corrections, Bonnie Rogers, who makes $147,000 in salary and benefits. The Senate has not included those cuts in its budget.

Times/Herald staff writers John Frank and Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report. Lee Logan can be reached at (850) 224-7263 or

Florida House wants agency chiefs to move to Tallahassee area 03/19/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 19, 2010 10:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021


    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    Santonio Holmes hauls in the game-winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in 2009, the last time Tampa hosted a Super Bowl. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  2. Rays bats go silent in second straight loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sure, Alex Cobb was to blame for the Rays' 4-0 loss on Tuesday.

    Derek Norris strikes out with the bases loaded as the Rays blow a golden opportunity in the seventh inning.
  3. Analysis: Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared


    LONDON — For Britain's security agencies, London always seemed like the likely target. For years, the capital of 8 million with hundreds of thousands of weekly tourists and dozens of transit hubs had prepared for and feared a major terror attack.

  4. Dade City man dies after crashing into county bus, troopers say

    Public Safety

    ZEPHYRHILLS — A 38-year-old man died Tuesday after colliding into the rear of a county bus on U.S. 301, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

  5. Suspicious device at Pinellas Park home was a spent artillery round, police say

    Public Safety

    PINELLAS PARK — Bomb squad investigators determined that a "suspicious device" found at a Pinellas Park home Tuesday afternoon was a spent artillery round, police said.