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Tampa Chamber apologizes to Rick Scott for Bob Rohrlack’s harsh missive

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Last Friday, Bob Rohrlack, the respected Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, sent off a blistering letter to Florida Governor Rick Scott regarding his handling of the removal of now former Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board member Sam Rashid.

“Possibly unlike any appointment you will make, this next appointment is both an opportunity and your responsibility to make the right selection to advance the mission of Tampa International Airport,” wrote Rohrlack.

“Your previous decision has given Tampa Bay a black eye and caused unnecessary controversy in our community,” Rohrlack added.

But Rohrlack is in hot water with his own board after the publication of that letter was released, and Chamber Board Chair Sam Christaldi criticized him in a letter dated October 27 to Scott.

“Although we asked Mr. Rohrlack to communicate the importance of appointments in the community, the letter you received was in tone, choice of words, and content not appropriate and not sanctioned by the Tampa Chamber Board,” Christaldii writes.

In what might be considered “CYA” mode, Christadli goes on to lavish Scott with praise, writing,”with your historic investments in our community and your steadfast commitment to job creation in the State of Florida, the Tampa Bay region has benefited and we have seen our unemployment rate fall from 12.5% to 5%.”

Christaldi goes on to write that the Chamber is “appreciative” of the business initiatives that “you have advanced for the benefit of Tampa Bay. We hope that nothing in Mr. Rohrlack’s letter gave anyone a contrary impression.”

Christaldi says the Tampa Chamber Executive Committee met with Rohrlack today and “counseled him on our displeasure with his inappropriate letter.

“I apologize for Mr. Rohrlack’s mistake in sending that letter,” Christaldi writes.

Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano also spoke out against Rohrlack’s letter.

“I was extremely surprised and disappointed by Bob’s letter to the governor,” Lopano wrote in a statement issued Tuesday night. “Nobody understands better than Gov. Scott that the mission of this airport is to support commerce and tourism for the state, and to create jobs. He has proven that time and time again. I trust the board appointment process and never doubted that the governor would take the time to appoint someone who would be a good steward of the state’s investment in this airport.

Sam Rashid quit the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board on October 9, after calling Tampa public relations consultant Beth Leytham a “taxpayer subsidized slut” on social media. Leytham had worked on a county transportation tax proposal called Go Hillsborough.

But more than four weeks earlier, Scott’s spokesman Jackie Shultz had said, “Governor Scott expects him to resign and would accept his resignation.”

Rashid and other critics of the proposed tax had complained about Leytham’s involvement for more than a year.

He also questioned Leytham’s influence with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioners Sandy Murman and Ken Hagan. 

Though not mentioning his name, in his letter, Rohrlack said Rashid “did not live up to expectations and failed our community … As you consider your (next) selection, know that all of Tampa Bay is watching.”

As noted by several Tallahassee observers on Monday, Scott is notoriously slow in making such personnel changes.

 

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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