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Perception: unprofessional

Tampa's former police chief should have been more careful about going to work for a man he had awarded government contracts. There are laws that restrict the revolving door from government to business, but the perception of cashing out should also concern those who occupy high positions of public trust.

Days after retiring in September, Bennie Holder became a consultant to a Sarasota businessman from whom he had bought police equipment. While chief, Holder's department spent nearly $2-million on aerial camera equipment. The vendor, Aerial Films, was the low bidder on the initial contract, but add-ons, maintenance and other equipment costs have since more than doubled the initial price. Some contracts were awarded without bids, records show. Holder, while in office, posed in uniform for an advertisement for Aerial, and the company donated $50,000 to sponsor a law enforcement conference that Holder hosted in Tampa last year.

Contract add-ons to low bidders always raise red flags, and the department should review its policies to ensure that contracts are competitively bid. Appearing in uniform to pitch a commercial product is unprofessional and unbecoming. The new chief, Steve Hogue, said he would not have done it.

Despite the scandals in recent years under the previous administration, the city of Tampa has no real lever to monitor compliance with state and local ethics rules. The city does, on paper, have a board of ethics, but there are seven vacancies on the seven-member board, and the panel hasn't met since 1990. The city should create a new oversight board to act on ethics questions and complaints. City officials need to be more sensitive to how perception shapes reality.

Correction

Since Gov. Jeb Bush was first elected, corporate income tax collection has dropped 24.1 percent. An editorial on Thursday erroneously reported 36.9 percent. Over the same period, sales tax collection has increased 20.8 percent.

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