Who profits from shows paid for by taxpayers via Visit Florida?

Public Integrity and Ethics Committee lawyer issues subpoenas for records

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A Public Integrity Committee of the Florida House voted Thursday to issue subpoenas to a private vendor over contracts with the state's tourism arm. Lawmakers said the subpoenas were a last resort. 

Lawmakers said they have yet to clear up who owns the copyright to the two shows and cash that might come from reruns.

Florida taxpayers spent as much as $18 million over a five year period through Visit Florida, funding a cooking show with Emeril Lagasse and a fishing show.

The Public Integrity and Ethics Committee was told by its lawyer, Adam Tenenbaum, that he had asked for the records informally. He said a subpoena was the last resort.

“There wasn’t an affirmative decline or refusal -- it was just an absence of action,” Tenenbaum said.

State documents require vendors to produce backup documents when requested. 

“I move that the committee approve the issuance of subpoenas,” Rep. Larry Ahern said.

At the center of the dispute is Tallahassee insider and political operative Pat Roberts. We placed a call to him, which he has not returned.

Rep. Larry Metz said its too early to know if Roberts will be asked to testify.

“So whether we do that or not remains to be seen. I have no idea," Metz said. "We’re going to see what the documents show, first of all."

In the end, lawmakers admit it's highly unlikely the state will recover any of the money.

“Quite honestly, I’d be surprised if there was any recovery," Rep. Larry Ahern said. "But again, it might be a lesson for the future when these types of things, these public private partnerships that everyone seems so keen on sometimes, that we take a little more time”.

The review of the contracts was sought by the House speaker after his very public feud with Visit Florida earlier this year.

Lawmakers also said they have yet to clear up who owns the copywrite to the two shows and cash that might come from re-runs.

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