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Visit Florida board to vote on new contract oversight rule

A rules change to help Visit Florida comply with legislatively mandated reporting requirements for big contracts will be ready for the organization’s board of directors next week.

State law requires Visit Florida to submit contracts in excess of $750,000 to the Joint Legislative Budget Commission. If the commission’s chair and vice chair — or the Senate president and House speaker — agree any deal is a bad idea, they can block it.

Agency general counsel Craig Thomas explained the rule change to the executive committee during a conference call Tuesday. The full board will gather Sept. 12 in Orlando.

“All of these contracts need to be submitted to the Legislature before we can sign them. The Legislature does have the ability, if both chambers object, to prevent Visit Florida from moving forward,” Thomas said.

“We have, in the past, worked with board members and made them available, but we haven’t been operating under any formal policy or procedure that requires the board be consulted before these are submitted to the Legislature. This procedure is designed to do just that.”

Such reviews will happen at the executive committee level.

“All members of the executive committee will receive a copy of any contract that’s required to be submitted to the Legislature at least five business days before Visit Florida would put it on formal notice and refer it to the Legislature,” Thomas said

The chair would ask the executive committee to review such contracts, with the panel voting either to drop or refer them to the lawmakers.

“We wanted to balance the need to not add additional delay” with giving the executive committee time to review the contracts, Thomas said.

“We’re being transparent,” chairman Lino Maldonado told committee members.

“We’re not going to be rubber-stamping things. But we do need to find the proper balance between efficiency and expediency, and oversight — which is our role — without overstepping our role.”

In other words, he said, “not letting the CEO run the business he was hired to run.”

The legal requirement followed criticism — particularly in the House — of Visit Florida’s practices, including its signature to a $1 million promotions deal with the rapper Pitbull.

Written By

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

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