Senate Prez-to-be demands resignation of DMS secretaryby Dara Kam | October 14th, 2010
Department of Management Services Secretary Linda South should quit her job because she signed off on runaway spending on an appellate courthouse dubbed the “Taj Mahal,” Senate President-designate and government penny-pincher Mike Haridopolos is demanding.
South approved a no-bid contract for the $48 million 1st District Court of Appeal courthouse in Tallahassee even though the rent from the building won’t be enough to pay its debt service, an audit by Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink found this week.
“Because of your irresponsible oversight, which has clearly wasted millions of taxpayer dollars, I call on you to submit your immediate resignation as Secretary of the Department of Management Services. You have failed to provide proper leadership and the abdication of your responsibilities has further weakened the public’s trust that their elected and appointed leaders will use their money wisely,” Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, wrote to South in a letter today.
Sink’s audit found that the appellate judges “bullied” South into building the opulent courthouse that wound up costing $11 million more than it should have.
Luxurious extras such as imported African mahogany and $350,000 worth of art work drove the cost of the courthouse up to $48.8 million, or $425 per square foot compared to the $250 per square foot for a new state building across the street from the courthouse.
The courthouse is costing the state $425 per square foot compared to $250 for a new Department of Revenue building in the same part of town, Sink said.
Her audit also found that two of the judges took trips to Michigan to look at that state’s Supreme Court building on which the new courthouse is modeled. Florida taxpayers picked up the tab for one of the trips but a subsequent visit was paid for by the courthouse contractor, Sink said.
Based on Sink’s request, Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady has ordered an investigation into the courthouse. Sink also asked Gov. Charlie Crist, South’s boss, to investigate the matter.