Florida auditors say lobbyists should not be on the payroll

| 12/29/2006

A state audit has found that a Florida toll authority was not authorized to pay lobbyists a total of more than $1.5 million since 2001.

The Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority was not supposed to pay for lobbyists at all, according to the Florida Auditor General's Office.

"The point of our finding is not the cost effectiveness of outsourcing lobbying services; rather, that the authority is not authorized to contract for lobbying services," the report stated, quoted by the St. Petersburg Times.

?The authority claims no impropriety with paying for lobbying services, but the auditors are standing by their findings in the original Nov. 29 audit report and a more recent exchange of letters.

According to the Times' story, the authority paid four lobbyists a total of $1.5 million since 2001, which is not authorized in legal terms. The authority believed - and to some extent still does - that paying for lobbyists is within its realm. That debate has not ended.

Another finding of the audit was about cost efficiency.

"The point of our finding ... was that the authority could improve its cost-efficiency in certain areas and should document the public purpose served in expending moneys," the report stated, as quoted by the Times' Web site.