Thursday, March 26, 2009

Alex Sink Letter to Bill McCollum

Attoney General Bill McCollum has come under criticism for a $1.4-million TV. McCollum hired Chris Mottola Consulting, through a no-bid contract, to create a cyber-predator prevention ad. Chris Mottola Consulting has worked on McCollum's 2006 campaign for Attorney General.

McCollum appears in the ad. Many have questioned McCollum putting a statewide commercial the year before elections. Senator Mel Martinez is tepping down. Governor Charlie Crist may run for Martinez's Senate seat. That leaves several possibilities open for McCollum's future.

The Florida Democratic Party has had a field day pointing out $550 for makeup.

"The fact that McCollum spent $550 of public money to get his make up done, in a vain attempt to make himself look good on TV, is especially telling as he desperately tries to defend his ads made by his long-time political consultant who was awarded the no-bid contract," said party spokesman Eric Jotkoff. "During this severe economic crisis, Florida's taxpayers are speechless at Bill McCollum's incredible lack of judgment, which is why Florida Democrats are determined to hold McCollum and his Republican Party accountable for their waste, fraud, and abuse of tax-payer's hard earned dollars."

Friedgator gives excellent background on the funding for the cyber ad. The Attorney General's office agreed to a settlement with AT&T Mobility. The latter was not properly informing customers on charges for third party offers for text messaging and ringtone services. The $2.5 million was originally supposed go to the Cyber Fraud Task Force. McCollum had the Florida legislature approve the money for cyber predator crimes. We know now where $1.4 million went.

Florida CFO Alex Sink sent a letter to McCollum. Sink raises concerns about proper documentation for payments to Chris Mottola Consulting. Sink informed McCollum she is "disappointed to learn" the no-bid contract will continue.

March 26, 2009

The Honorable Bill McCollum

Attorney General

State of Florida

The Capitol PL-01

Tallahassee, FL 32399-1015

Dear Attorney General McCollum:

Thank you for your letter informing me of your decision to extend your contract and expend additional state funds on your CyberSafety advertising.

As you know, the Department of Financial Services has authority to verify that the no-bid contract amendment between your office and Chris Mottola Consulting contains adequate requirements to process payment. Sufficient supporting documentation is still required by your office before payment could be made by the Department of Financial Services.

Given the circumstances, I was disappointed to learn that you intend to continue your no-bid contract to Chris Mottola Consulting, instead of going through a competitive bidding process. Also, it is important to note that these funds are public funds -- they belong to Florida’s taxpayers.

Like all Floridians, I was encouraged to see recognized cyber safety experts like John Walsh and others supporting the need to educate Floridians about the dangers of cyber crime. Given their support for fighting cyber crime, it might have been more appropriate if any one of these experts had been the face of your ad campaign to avoid a perception of self-promotion.

As you are well aware, I continue to be a strong supporter of combating cyber crime and internet predators in Florida.


Alex Sink
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

Update: The entire $2.5 AT&T Mobility settlement money will be spent on another round of ads.

Sink has taken exeption to McCollum's claim that she did not legally approve of McCollum's no-bid contract. Despite Sink's questions about the nature of the contract, she approved the latest ad buy. Deputy Chief Financial Officer Donna O’Neal sent out a press release to correct the record.

Dear Attorney General McCollum:

CFO Alex Sink has asked me to clarify the Department of Financial Services’ routine contract review process, given that your recent letter to her incorrectly stated that your request had been denied.
Just today the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Accounting and Auditing was sent a contract amendment from your office.

As with your previous contract and amendments, the Division of Accounting and Auditing is in the process of reviewing your contract amendment. Once this routine review is completed, your office will receive the standard checklist stating whether the necessary requirements to support future payments were incorporated in the contract amendment.

Also, just as with your previous contract and amendments, at the time payment is officially requested for this contract amendment -- which has not yet occurred -- standard supporting documentation will be needed from your office to process payment. The Department of Financial Services has no authority to deny payment if this documentation meets the necessary criteria.

Please have your office contact the Division of Accounting and Auditing if there is need for any further clarification.


Donna O’Neal

Deputy Chief Financial Officer

Division of Accounting and Auditing

Department of Financial Services

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