New major policy changes at Port Tampa Bay after I-Team investigation

TAMPA, Fla. - Big changes are in the works at Port Tampa Bay.

New policies and stronger internal spending controls are now in effect. All after the I-Team exposed port executives wining and dining on your dime on their credit cards.

Expenses like fancy dinners, lightning season tickets, and golf club memberships to name a few.

CEO Paul Anderson is now taking a softer tone as he tells us:

"Jarrod, first let me just say thanks to your reporting we identified some areas for improvement."

Improvements Tampa's Mayor Bob Buckhorn demanded last meeting after seeing our story.

Effective immediately there will be no more season tickets to sporting events, or golf club memberships.

If an employee wants to take a potential client to an event,  it has to be on a case by case basis, and they have to fill out an entertainment form. The form will detail who they are with and why.

Also, no more alcohol purchases for port employees. Like purchases we found in a $2,100 bill to Coopers Hawk, and top shelf alcohol at Berns Steakhouse.

Travel meals will now be limited to a per diem reimbursement set by government guidelines.   

"I think these are some of the most conservative policies I have ever seen", says Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman who sits on the ports governing board.

While it's a step in the right direction, new board member Mike Griffin says he wants to tighten them up even more. He was recently appointed after Governor Rick Scott saw our investigation.

This morning in Tampa the governor tells us, "If you're gonna go spend taxpayer money, it's somebody else's money, so lets watch how that money is being spent and lets make sure it's transparent and make sure it's accountable."

In addition to the 13 pages of stronger policies on expenses there will be more transparent documentation, more reviews by upper management, and third party audits specifically looking at p-cards.   

Mayor Buckhorn says, "I think that that's acknowledging mistakes were made and more importantly is we now have fixed it and i think moving forward you're not going to see this again."

The review of expenses is still ongoing and port employees have had to make reimbursements on questionable charges, including port CEO Paul Anderson.

We have requested a full list of all reimbursements. We'll keep you posted when we get them.

We can tell you due to a clerical error, Anderson has been getting a car allowance while he has been using a port issued vehicle. He's paid back $11,900 on that so far.

Anderson has also reimbursed the port more than $800 for charges ranging from TPC golf, coffee shops, and restaurants like Islamorada Fish Co.

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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 FacebookTwitter, or via email at jarrod.holbrook@wfts.com.

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