Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Spacy Florida

A couple of days ago, Orlando Sentinel reporters Aaron Deslatte and Robert Block broke the news that Florida governor Charlie Crist is ordering a state ethics investigation into one of his own former staff employees.

The newspaper is claiming that Brice Harris used his position in the governor's Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development to arrange a half million dollar contract for the Andrews Institute of Gulf Breeze. Then, he "resigned his $70,000-a-year state job -- to take a job overseeing the project for the company he had helped get it."

Crist was more or less forced to run for the political cover of a typically toothless ethics investigation after the newspaper obtained "e-mails and other documents" showing that Harris engineered the grant to the Andrews Institute. Then he got waist-deep in the details of running the place by negotiating "minutae down to the design of the logos and shoulder patches the would-be space tourists would wear." And only then did he resign to take the "private sector" position of running the program himself.

That the hog trough is open for all public employees in Florida to self-deal with taxpayer money should not be surprising. After all, former governor Jeb Bush set the tone when he shagged the people of Florida by giving away millions of state money to Lehman Brothers (R.I.P.) and was rewarded soon after leaving office with a cushy consultant contract.

The majority leader of the statehouse, Ray Sansom (R-Destin), also knows a good scam when he sees it. He shoveled tens of millions of taxpayer funds at the once-obscure Okaloosa-Walton County Community College (now, with its ill-gotten wealth, re-christened "Northwest Florida State College"). For his troubles? He was given a $110,000 a year job for which he didn't even have the required advanced degree.

Never mind the absurdity of spending half a million dollars in Florida "tourism and development" money on "space tourism." Space tourism! Here along the Gulf Coast we can't even say that without giggling.

What really gets us is that the news media persist in referring to these all-too-common bag jobs as "potential ethics violations." They are to ethics what bank robbery is to a late payment to your credit card company.

The facts as reported spell out potential crimes. Rod Blagojevich-type crimes. Anyone -- including an elected official or someone who works for one -- who abuses his public position and deploys taxpayer money to secure a cushy job for himself should be indicted. Just as surely as Blagojevich will be.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Remember that in this great country we are innocent until proven guilty. The ones who jump on the bandwagon to light a torch will be the same ones in shame when the details come to light that an innocent person was placed at the stake. The media must do there best to create drama and that is what they have done. It has been said over and over by Harris's boss that he was not in a position to approve any funds and was more of just a messenger. There are also supporting documents which show Harris didn't begin work on any logo, etc until after he went to work for Andrew's. If you believe the media, then Harris had the power at 31 years old, and after only 1 year on the job, to approve on his own, 1/4 million dollars in state money funding. It's rubbish and the truth will come to light.