Maybe Gov. Rick Scott doesn’t need a lieutenant governor. Apparently he’s received lots of advice from more than 30 Republican governors who have visited Florida for a few days over the last two years.
Under state law, the governor or other state leaders may request security for visiting governors or other dignitaries, including presidents and first ladies, for those “whom the failure to provide security or transportation could result in a clear and present danger to the personal safety of such persons or the safety of other persons or property within the state or could result in public embarrassment to the state.”
“We have a reciprocal agreement with other states for the protection of governors from other states,” said Linda McDonald, communications coordinator for the FDLE’s Office of External Affairs.
In the fiscal year which ended June 30, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement spent $1.84 million to protect and provide transportation for the governor. When you add in Scott’s wife, children and the Governor’s Mansion, the total grows to $2.21 million. It was only a slight increase over last year’s $2.19 million.
When the governor travels in the state or leaves the state, FDLE agents travel with him, and the cost of that is included in the total security costs for the governor, McDonald said.
“When we visit other states, we use our security personnel, as well as receive assistance in the host state,” she said.
But Scott’s office in Tallahassee said it doesn’t know how often or when the governor leaves for out-of-state visits, although it heavily publicizes his out-of-country trade missions.
“Our office does not keep a list of when the governor has traveled out of state,” said John Tupps of Scott’s press office. He also did not answer the question regarding who is left in charge when the governor leaves Florida. The state has been without a lieutenant governor since Jennifer Carroll resigned in March during the Allied Veterans of the World scandal.
There is also no record of Scott’s flights. After taking office, he sold the state’s two executive planes and flies whenever and wherever he wants to go on his own private jet.
In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2006, when Jeb Bush was governor, the total cost for protecting the state’s chief executive officer was only $1.21 million, or about $1 million less than it costs to protect Scott. The FDLE listed 43 protective details for year, including visits from 32 governors, nine Cabinet members and two representatives from foreign countries, at a total cost of $51,321.
Surprisingly, the security costs for the governor’s mansion actually dropped from 2006, when the state spent $281,056, compared with $143,502 for 2013.
During the administration of Gov. Charlie Crist, security for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, was $1.29 million for the governor, $179,639 for his wife and $70,571 for the first family, including his two teenaged stepdaughters. The total cost was $1.83 million. In that year, the FDLE performed 58 protective details for dignitaries, at a total cost of $125,053, hosting 20 governors, several multiple times.
With the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August 2012, Florida became the hot spot for GOP governors to visit.
During the time around the convention, the FDLE provided security for 28 governors, including those of Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico, spending $272,844, or an average of $9,744 for each governor, some of whom brought their families.
During the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013, the state provided 94 protective details for visiting dignitaries, bringing costs to protect governors and other officials to $425,461, compared with 79 protective details at a cost of $294,921 the previous year.
According to reports obtained from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, both Republicans, were the most frequent visitors to the Sunshine State among the governors.
For the fiscal years 2012 and 2013, Jindal, sometimes accompanied by his wife and three kids, made at least 11 visits to Florida, costing the state about $24,819 in security and transportation costs in his 22 days of visiting.
For the same two-year period, Haley also visited 10 times, costing Florida $37,450. She reimbursed the state of South Carolina $7,600 for out-of-state trips for fiscal year 2013. South Carolina law bars taxpayers’ funds from being used on campaign events. She attended nine private fundraisers in California, Florida, New York, Texas, Ohio and Michigan.
According to FDLE reports, Haley spent 32 days in the state over the two-year period, including a five-day stint at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, where the state of Florida spent $17,577 for security and transportation for the governor in August 2012. Haley also required security Nov. 29 through Dec. 3, 2011 for an official visit, costing Florida $11,311.
“What I will tell you that is any governor who comes to South Carolina, we’re going to make sure they have security,” Haley told the Associated Press in an Aug. 20 story.
Jindal’s frequent absences from the Louisiana have drawn criticism on state editorial pages and from some state leaders.
Neither Jindal’s office nor Haley’s office responded to email requests for more information or comment on their frequent Florida trips.
Jindal was shown in newspaper photos with Gov. Scott at the Oct. 6, 2012, football game between Florida and Louisiana State University in Gainesville.
According to Louisiana Voice, Jindal took 23 separate trips between December 2011 and November 2012, costing the state of Louisiana more than $75,000 for his personal security detail. Included on his itinerary were trips in Florida including Miami, Naples, Destin, Tampa and Gainesville.
The FDLE report does not list the dignitaries traveling to Florida by their names but by their titles, such as “Governor of Wyoming.” It also doesn’t list the purpose of the visit, but it does indicate if the visit is personal or official business, which it describes as “primary nature of the protectee’s business while visiting the state.”
In some cases, they appear at campaign or fundraising rallies, give speeches or attend football games.
In 2013, 75 of the trips listed by the FDLE were designated as business, including trips to the Republican National Convention, 19 were listed as personal and two were listed as “not applicable,” in that “advance work” had been done prior to the dignitary’s visit. In the 19 personal trips, the state spent $23,975 for security and transportation of the out-of-town guests.
In fiscal year 2012, 20 of the 79 trips were marked as personal. Those personal trips cost the state $59,451.
State agents also provide help to the U.S. Secret Service or the State Department when requested to do so, including for visits of President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle. Vice President Joe Biden, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan also visited in the past fiscal year.