Governor Rick Scott today confirmed that the U.S. Department of Labor has launched an investigation into Florida's 24 regional workforce boards to determine if they have been improperly awarding contracts to companies controlled by associated with board members.
The questionable business arrangements, often done with no bids, was first detailed in a survey by the Agency for Workforce Innovation at the request of Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, after reports of questionable spending emerged at the Pasco/Hernando and Tampa Bay workforce boards in 2010. The Orlando Sentinel in a story Sunday also detailed additional questionable practices, including the award of a $99,000 contract to a Fort Lauderdale board member to produce an online video.
“My administration has zero tolerance for the misuse of taxpayer dollars,'' Scott said in a statement Friday. "I am confident this federal investigation will ensure any improper actions related to contracting practices are brought to light and appropriately addressed."
"I think it's great. I think it should have happened long ago,'' said Fasano, who sponsored a bill last year to ban the use of taxpayer money for excessive spending by these workforce boards. The measure passed in the Senate and failed in the House. "These are tax dollars, whether they come from the state or the federal government,'' he said. "It clearly sends a message we have to take another look at these workforce boards."
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At Fasano's request, the Agency for Workforce Innovation issued a 2010 report that concluded some boards violated Florida law by signing contracts with board members or their relatives.
Scott said he has asked AWI and Workforce Florida Inc. to "support federal officials in their investigation into RWB contracting practices."