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State-run audit at Tampa International now underway

in Statewide/The Bay and the 'Burg by

For the Tampa Bay legislative delegation, it was one of the more combustible moments of the 2017 Legislative Session.

We’re referring to when Republicans Jack Latvala and Dana Young pushed back forcefully against Tom Lee‘s insistence of an audit of Tampa International Airport’s $2.6 billion master plan.

Actually, what they were really pushing back against was Lee’s provocative comment thatpotential public corruption was taking place at TIA.

Airport CEO Joe Lopano confirmed Thursday that state audit is now underway.

“With respect to the senator, someone with his gravitas to say ‘corruption’ is unfortunate, but having an audit is not unfortunate, and I have no problem with that,” Lopano said on the WMNF 88.5 FM “MidPoint” program.

“We’re a very transparent group,” he added. “We try to do things right. We’re doing what we said we would do.”

Lee surprised his Senate colleagues when he made the request for the audit, saying that he had been motivated by reading “allegations of gross representation” surfacing in local media.

“That’s a very inflammatory thing to say,“ Latvala said at the time. “Can you tell me which channel it was on and maybe a little more about it, because obviously none of us condone corruption, but since you’re the only one in the delegation that has seen it, maybe help us a little bit?”

Lee then backed away slightly, saying that what he has seen was the definition of public corruption, but “perhaps I shouldn’t use that term.”

He then cited a WFLA News Channel 8 report on the master plan being four months behind. Lopano acknowledges that is the case, with the airport’s main terminal to the economy garage and brand-new rental car center opening up in early 2018.

The audit must be completed by the end of this year.

 

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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