UPDATE: Florida Secretary of Commerce Gray Swoope issued a strongly-worded rebuttal to Integrity Florida’s report, condemning the group’s findings and accusing Integrity Florida executive director Dan Krassner of “misleading Florida’s citizens by disseminating misinformation and misrepresentations of our organization, our mission and our work each day.”
Swoope said he met with Krassner before the report was released but Krassner’s analysis failed to reflect Swoope’s clarifications. Instead, Swoope accused Krassner of “releasing half-truths to inflame emotions. Read Swoope’s full statement after the jump.
Do Enterprise Florida’s corporate board members have a conflict of interest in awarding themselves tax breaks or other economic development aid? And should one of the recipients of Enterprise Florida grants be trusted with figuring out whether the agency is getting a good return on its investments?
Those are some of the questions Integrity Florida, a new government watchdog organization, raised in a report released Wednesday that found, among other things, that millions of dollars in grants went to corporations who paid to be on the public-private partnership’s board of directors.
Board members Publix, Embraer Aircraft and Lockheed Martin board all received tax breaks or incentive awards ranging from $150,000 to $570,000 over the past two years, the report found.
Ernst & Young found that the public-private partnership’s investments were good for Florida’s economy, generating $2.66 for every economic development dollar. But the accounting firm also received a $96,000 incentives grant last year, according to the report.
“Should a recipient of Enterprise Florida incentives also be responsible for calculating return on investment
benefits of incentives?” the report, written by Integrity Florida executive director Dan Krassner and research director Ben Wilcox, the former head of Common Cause of Florida.
The report also found Enterprise Florida did not give publicly notice all of its meetings and did not make the meeting materials easily available to the public.
Last year, one of Gov. Rick Scott’s former agency heads – Doug Darling – revealed that Florida had id tens of millions of dollars to lure companies to the state for jobs that were never created. Darling, the former head of the Department of Economic Opportunity, quickly backed away from his critique of the jobs return on the tax breaks, saying the situation wasn’t as bad as it first appeared.
But Integrity Florida also questioned whether the state is doing a good enough job keeping track of the number, duration and types of jobs the tax breaks create or whether it should change its analysis “to help ensure high wage criteria is being reached in an appropriate manner rather than by a few larger salaries skewing averages.”
Florida Department of Commerce Secretary Gray Swoope issued a lengthy rebuttal to Integrity Florida’s report, including a point-by-point clarification of the highlighted issues. Read it after the jump.