Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

After inquiry, four juvenile justice officials give up take-home cars

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Juvenile Justice Secretary Frank Peterman and three high-ranking deputies have surrendered their free take-home cars after a state investigation said the vehicles might violate federal tax rules on unreported income.

The department issued the cars to Peterman and three top aides because they frequently visit field offices and must be on call to respond to emergencies. The cars are considered perquisites, or perks.

"Effective immediately, all of the perquisite vehicles assigned to Tallahassee staff have been rescinded," Peterman wrote in a memo to his staff Tuesday. "These vehicles will now join the state vehicle pool and be requested as needed."

A Jan. 26 report by Gov. Charlie Crist's chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, reads: "Based on Florida statutes and other governing directives, personal use of a state-issued vehicle by an employee may constitute a taxable fringe benefit." The report said the Juvenile Justice Department has not issued tax forms on the cars.

The practice dates to 2003 or earlier, and multiple former employees could have to pay back taxes, or even face interest and penalties.

Department spokesman Frank Penela that it's up to individual employees to refile their taxes.

This is the second time Peterman's mode of travel has been red-flagged as questionable by the Governor's Office.

The inspector general's report was prompted by a Times/Herald article that showed Peterman spent more than $20,000 to travel between Tallahassee and St. Petersburg, where his family lives and where he preaches at a Baptist church. Much of the tab was for commercial airfare between the two cities.

Last week, he repaid the state $25,630 for that travel, as well as for luggage charges and airline fees to rebook flights.

Penela said Wednesday that Peterman now drives his car when he goes home for weekends.

According to the Jan. 26 inspector general's report, Peterman said he was told he could use the car for commuting, but was "not told it was considered a perquisite."

But that statement is contradicted by three documents — a March 18, 2009, e-mail about department perquisite policy and two "Request for Approval of Perquisites" forms signed by Peterman on March 10 and Aug. 11.

The state issued Ford Crown Victorias to Peterman, Deputy Secretary Rod Love, Assistant Secretary for Prevention Greg Johnson and Assistant Secretary for Probation Rex Uberman. Peterman makes $120,000 a year, and each of the three deputies makes close to or more than $100,000.

Peterman's memo said agency officials are still working out a new policy regarding take-home cars.

In the meantime, Penela said, the officials can travel as needed. "They can still, just like anybody, ask for the motor pool car," he said.

According to the department that tracks state-owned property, no other agency issues cars defined as perquisites. But the Department of Financial Services, which manages the state's books, says 10 agencies reported a total of $300,000 of income from cars considered "fringe benefits."

The four Juvenile Justice Department cars were not included in that total, and the state could not explain why.

"That's a good question," said Christina Smith, the assistant director of accounting at the Financial Services Department, which is under the direction of Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink. Smith said her office doesn't regularly audit cars given out as perks because the amount of benefits is small compared to the rest of the state's payroll.

"It's more difficult to try and find what they haven't reported," she said.

Even though the Juvenile Justice Department has the only four cars classified as perks, the state has more than 6,600 cars that can be taken home. Of those, 5,200 are for law enforcement employees across 13 agencies, and another 620 are for emergency service workers. Roughly 850 are issued to employees who work from home.

Lee Logan can be reached at or (850) 224-7263.

After inquiry, four juvenile justice officials give up take-home cars 02/03/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 3, 2010 9:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No. 21 USF Bulls roll over Temple to stay undefeated


    TAMPA — They emerged from Raymond James Stadium's southwest tunnel on the 11-month anniversary of their public humiliation at Temple.

    Bulls tailback Darius Tice, who rushes for 117 yards, is elated by his 47-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter for a 10-0 lead.
  2. Fennelly: USF thrashes Temple to stay unbeaten; too bad not many saw it in person



    No. 21 USF ran its record to 4-0 Thursday night with some payback against Temple, a 43-7 trouncing, no contest, as if anyone cares, at least judging by the paltry crowd at Raymond James Stadium. Where was everybody?

    Bulls cornerback Deatrick Nichols (3) celebrates with teammates after making a defensive play during the first half.
  3. Former Ray Tim Beckham's over being traded, or is he?

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — As the Rays reunited Thursday with Tim Beckham for the first time since he was dealt July 31 to Baltimore, it became very clear that not everything in assessing the trade is as it appears.

    Tim Beckham, here in action Monday against the Red Sox, has hit .310, with 10 homers and 26 RBIs since going to the Orioles.
  4. Bucs probe how to fix deep-ball chances missed vs. Bears


    TAMPA — It was only minutes after the Bucs had demolished the Bears 29-7 Sunday when quarterback Jameis Winston tried one final time to connect with receiver DeSean Jackson.

    QB Jameis Winston says he’s focused on the deep-ball chances to DeSean Jackson he missed in the opener: “We left a lot out there.”
  5. Rays journal: Ugly first inning dooms Andriese, Rays against Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Rays manager Kevin Cash said before Thursday's game that RHP Matt Andriese was among the pitchers who would most benefit from a strong finish to the season.

    Matt Andriese has a tough first: hits to four of first five batters, leading to three runs, the only ones he gives up in six innings