Visit Florida controversy continues as Gov. Rick Scott attends tourism convention

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott traveled to South Florida on Tuesday for the state's tourism convention. 

He single-handedly spared the agency, Visit Florida, from budget cuts over questions about how it spent Floridians' tax dollars.

But the controversy isn't over yet. 

Scott fought to keep Visit Florida, which is a tax-funded marketer of the state's tourism industry, in the budget.

Its new leader oversees new transparent and restricted spending demanded by the house speaker after he learned that Visit Florida secretly spent $1 million on a sexy beach video featuring Pitbull, and questioned other spending. 

A dozen local tourism bureaus cut ties with Visit Florida, including the Greater Miami Visitor and Convention Bureau.

"There is no negative impact in terms of Visit Florida being able to continue its mission of marketing Florida," Visit Florida CEO Ken Lawson said. 

Questions about the defections have gone unanswered at the local levels, but all 12 regional tourist bureaus that broke ties with Visit Florida received a letter from the house speaker Friday, accusing them of a "futile attempt to shield financial information from public scrutiny," and warning that lawmakers will hold them accountable.

"The house speaker's letter made it sound like they are not going to be transparent or are afraid of being transparent. Do you share that opinion?" Local 10 News reporter Glenna Milberg asked the governor.

"Well, to the extent anybody uses tax dollars, there ought to be accountability and transparency," Scott said. 

Bill Talbert, who is the head of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, said they are reviewing the legal ramifications of the transparency laws and then will decide how to proceed with Visit Florida.  


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