Florida House Speaker launches state investigation into Port Tampa Bay after I-Team story

TAMPA - More fallout is happening at Port Tampa Bay.

We have learned a state level investigation is now in the works, all after the I-Team uncovered wining and dining among port executives on your dime.

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran is appalled at what we found.

He directed a state level committee to look into all of the expenses executives have been putting on their credit cards.

Reporter: Do you see this as wasteful spending?

House Speaker Corcoran: "It's absolutely wasteful spending. It's taxpayer dollars whether direct or indirect it's taxpayers' money.  You got some single mom coming home every day working two jobs as a waitress trying to make the basic bills and cover them and you have this kind of spending going on with her money that you're taking from her, that's inexcusable."

The I-Team previously exposed eight port executives including CEO Paul Anderson, who racked up more than $870,000 on their credit cards in three years.

RELATED: Mayor demands policy changes to Port Tampa Bay's credit card spending after I-Team Investigation

All spending taxpayer money on golf outings, Tampa Bay Lightning season tickets, and fancy dinners at places like Berns Steakhouse, and a table for 25 at Coopers Hawk where the bill was more than $2,100.

One former executive had to pay back more than $11,000 in unexplained charges.

Corcoran says executives owe taxpayers an apology, "instead of defending themselves and saying hey this is great we did all these things- none of it's ever proven. None of it's ever proven that this dollar equaled this return. It's all false. But they should go to those folks, knock on their door, sit down at their table and apologize to them."

Since our investigation, Tampa's mayor Bob Buckhorn has called for policy changes and blasted executives for some of the expenses.

Corcoran is now directing The Florida House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee to look further into our findings.

"You've done some great investigative reports on this.  The team has already looked at all of your investigative reports, we're beginning the process of gathering those public records and then going through and seeing what the recourse is we can have.  We know we have recourse, we want to chose the most effective one to make it stop," Corcoran says.

He says he won't stop until serious changes are made.

"I've told staff I want it all done. I want it all stopped, i want it all cleaned up and whatever method we have to undertake to do that i don't care if it's shutting down their funding, prosecuting, suing whatever it takes i want it all shut down," says Corcoran.

Reporter: What's your message to taxpayers when they see this type of spending going on in our port?
Corcoran: "Remember it at the ballot box. I mean it's inexcusable."

The 18 member committee meets in September but have already started their investigation.

Jarrod Holbrook is an Emmy and AP Award-winning Investigative Reporter for the ABC Action News I-Team.
Do you have a story idea? Contact Jarrod on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/tvinvestigator/, Twitter https://twitter.com/JarrodHolbrook, or via email at jarrod.holbrook@wfts.com.
 

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