The fine folks at Visit Florida must have a death wish. Months after the state's tourism marketing outfit narrowly avoided an attempt by state legislators to slash its budget, we learn it awarded more than $440,000 in bonuses earlier this year. That's not too smart for an agency whose very existence is questioned by House Speaker Richard Corcoran.
It was only after Corcoran filed a public records lawsuit that it was revealed Visit Florida paid Miami rapper Pitbull $1 million to promote the state and produce a "Sexy Beaches" music video — and Pitbull was the one who revealed his fee. There also were expensive promotional contracts with a British soccer team and an auto racing team, which have ended. Visit Florida managed to keep its $76 million in state funding during a legislative special session only as part of a larger deal between Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers. But a new law also requires more transparency about contracts, caps salaries and adds restrictions on travel.
And still Visit Florida doesn't get the message. It acknowledged last week it handed out bonuses to 119 employees in May, arguing they were previously approved and paid with private money. That's no excuse for an agency that ought to read the political winds, and you can bet Corcoran will take notice. The governor already has, criticizing the bonuses this week and suggesting that practice be scrapped. Otherwise, Visit Florida will be revisiting trouble in Tallahassee.