Citrus County Tourism Director’s job at risk over Cincinnati Zoo manatee project

pricher mug copy
'I find it outrageous any county employee would order a service ... after this board has said we do not want it'

Citrus County’s Tourism Director faces dismissal after approving an advertising contract even though the County Commission voted against it.

County Administrator Steve Howard placed John Pricher on administrative leave after Pricher refused to resign.

Howard is recommending Pricher be fired. A July 17 administrative hearing will decide his fate.

Pricher is accused of approving a $50,000 contract with Madden Media, the county’s tourism advertising agency, for a manatee education program at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

The County Commission in March voted 3-2 to not move forward with the contract. Pricher, however, had apparently already started to put the program’s pieces together after January, when the Tourist Development Council (TDC) gave its OK.

The TDC is an advisory board to the County Commission and has no authority on its own to spend money.

Compounding the matter, county officials said Pricher directed Madden Media to split its invoice into thirds to avoid detection.

“I find it outrageous any county employee would order a service or supply or anything like that, specifically after this board has said we do not want it,” Commissioner Jeff Kinnard said.

Howard said he gave Pricher the option of resigning his $87,665-a-year job before placing him on leave Tuesday.

“I spoke to John yesterday to give him an opportunity to resign his position ASAP. He chose not to do that,” Howard said. “The recommendation action is dismissal.”

Howard declined to discuss the specific allegations.

Pricher, hired in 2017, and Madden brought plans to the TDC in June 2022 to partner with zoos on manatee conservation programs that would spotlight Crystal River. The TDC in January agreed to the Cincinnati Zoo proposal, and Madden provided a contract to the county in February.

Commissioners, however, didn’t hear of the proposal until their last meeting in March and the program was set to occur a week later in Cincinnati. After some discussion, the board voted 3-2 against the zoo program.

On Tuesday, Citrus County Clerk of Courts Angela Vick brought the invoices to the County Commission, looking for approval so that her office could pay them. Vick said Pricher acknowledged the invoices were related to the Cincinnati Zoo program that County Commissioners had nixed.

The board voted unanimously to not pay the bill.

Pricher’s administrative leave comes just four months after Howard suspended Pricher three days for unauthorized use of a county credit card while in London on tourism business. Pricher’s fiancée accompanied him on the trip, and he did not separate out his personal expenses, county officials said.

Mike Wright

Mike Wright is a former reporter with the Citrus County Chronicle, where he had covered county government and politics since 1987. Mike's skills as an investigative reporter earned him first-place awards in investigative writing. Mike also helped the Chronicle win the Frances Devore Award for Public Service in 2002.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn