Taxpayers Foot Bill for Slush Organizations, Excessive Travel

Broward County taxpayers footed the bill for more than $275,000 in membership dues for commissioners for the Florida Association of Counties and its national counterpart during the past two years, according to records just released by the county.

That's just one chunk of money coming from county coffers for dubious memberships with various organizations. According to records released at the request of Broward Coalition President Charlotte Greenbarg, the county has coughed up about $1.75 million for various memberships in the past two years.  

Some of that might be well-spent, but a lot of it is dubious at best, and there's no better example of that than the money going to Florida Association of Counties, whom we paid $214,260, and the National Association of Counties (NACO), which got $61,850. The money amounts to a slush fund that is used to bring politicians together so they can be wined and dined by companies looking for government business.  

You remember the Florida organization; it's the one that recently installed Commissioner Ilene Lieberman as its president despite the fact that she's under a cloud of investigation by the State Attorney's Office for alleged corruption. Lieberman recently returned from a scheduled ten-day trip to China organized by NACO.

You see how this works? The commissioners give the organizations taxpayers' money, and then the organization sets up commissioners on trips to conferences and other junkets.

And what happens at those conferences? Why, the elected officials are taken to free dinners by the organizations' "corporate sponsors" -- which include garbage giant Waste Management, Citi Bank, Aetna, and many others -- where they are given lavish meals and all the drinks they can put down while company reps and lobbyists work the room. Here's an example of the fun courtesy of the Florida League of Cities.  

That's the corrupt circle. These commissioners -- who have made a mockery of the county with some of them under the cloud of investigation and two already removed from office due to criminal charges -- get treated like royalty. And the taxpayers are just the jokers at the bottom of the deck.

And there are hundreds of thousands more dollars paid by the county for memberships with dubious organizations The records released by the county to Greenbarg also include county travel records.

Inside after the jump, you can see how much taxpayers spent on travel for each of our commissioners during the past two years. You won't be surprised by the name on the top of the list.

Travel expenses for Broward County commissioners for the past two years:

Ilene Lieberman: $32,603.72

Kristin Jacobs: $19,936.35

Stacy Ritter: $9,956.11

Josephus Eggelletion: $7,427.34

Lois Wexler: $4,596.91

Ken Keechl: $2,955.53

Albert C. Jones: $1,747.59

John Rodstrom: $375

Total: $80,0630.26

Wow, $16,300 a year for Lieberman, about $1,280 more than the total annual pay of an American worker making minimum wage. Good to see Keechl didn't abuse the county, but then again, he had his campaign account to fund his grand San Francisco trip.

Here's a list of Broward County workers who spent the most on travel. The money spent on travel by officials with the Convention & Visitors Bureau is incredible. 

1. Alfredo Gonzalez, Convention & Visitors Bureau: $143,770.29

2. Josh Winston, Convention & Visitors Bureau: $109,854.09

3. Carlos Bequeras, Port Everglades: $90,517.61

4. Nicki Grossman, Convention & Visitors Bureau: $74,959

5. Fernando Harb, Convention & Visitors Bureau: $63,517.76

6. Michele Bernis, C & V Bureau: $57,302.53

7. Stacy Copeland, C & V Bureau: $43,694.46

8. Ilene Lieberman, Commission: $32,603.72

9. Jessica Taylor, C & V Bureau: $31,770.76

10 Deborah Wilkinson, Ecomonic & Small Business Dev.: $29,105.36


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