Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

State overseer defends role on 'Taj Mahal' courthouse

TALLAHASSEE — The state agency supervising construction of a new 1st District Court of Appeal says it saved the state money while supervising construction of the new courthouse many call a "Taj Mahal."

In a formal response to a highly critical audit of the project released last month by Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, officials at the Department of Management Services say they complied with state laws, used money provided by the Legislature and supervised construction of a building design selected by the court's judges.

"DMS has met all its responsibilities … and done so in a professional manner," Secretary Linda South noted in a 13-page response submitted Thursday to legislators, the Florida Supreme Court and others.

The response rejected several of Sink's conclusions, saying the agency complied with Florida laws and did not allow the judges to take control of the $48 million project.

Sink's auditors accused the judges of bullying state officials to build a lavish, mahogany-paneled courthouse filled with expensive amenities that should not have been allowed.

Sink blamed the DMS for losing control of the project and failing to seek competitive bids as required by law. South said her agency used a construction management process allowed by law to select a project manager who then secured bids.

The DMS attempted to limit the finished portions of the building and allow for completion when growth dictated the need, South noted, but an agreement to limit construction fell apart in 2008 when the judges lobbied and received $5.5 million in additional money from the Legislature without the DMS' knowledge.

In an interview last month, South said the DMS had no authority to fund a construction project but merely complied with the law and supervised the building, taking design directions from the court.

South said Thursday she expects legislators will ask her agency to explain the project after newly elected lawmakers convene later this month.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos has called for South to resign, saying she should have had better control of the project. South countered that her agency is not to blame for money state lawmakers agreed to spend on the project.

She says she has long planned to leave state government at the end of the year, when Gov. Charlie Crist leaves office.

State overseer defends role on 'Taj Mahal' courthouse 11/04/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 9:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Who took a knee? How each NFL team responded to Donald Trump's tweets about anthem protests


    NFL players and coaches across the league reacted in various ways on Sunday to remarks from President Donald Trump speaking about NFL players who have protested during the national anthem.

    Bucs receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson both kneeled during the national anthem in protest before Sunday's game at the Vikings. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Florida State out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2011


    Florida State's first 0-2 start since 1989 has led to another low.

  3. From care center to purgatory to 'hellhole': How 11 frail elders died after Irma


    As she got ready to say goodbye to her mother at the Hollywood Hills nursing home, Rose Wyda's heart was sick. Hurricane Irma had been gone for nearly 48 hours, but the trail of shattered trees and broken, hissing power lines the storm left behind was still dangerously apparent. And the nursing home was part of the …

  4. Bucs' Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson kneel during national anthem


    Bucs receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson both kneeled during the national anthem in protest before Sunday's game at the Vikings, two days after President Donald Trump made critical remarks about NFL …

    Bucs receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson both kneeled during the national anthem in protest before Sunday's game at the Vikings. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. Authorities ID man killed in Clearwater Beach boating crash; Girl, 4, still in critical condition


    An Altamonte Springs man died and a 4-year-old girl remains in critical condition Sunday morning after their personal watercraft collided with a boat in the Intracoastal Waterway near Clearwater Beach just before 5 p.m.