Supervisor of Elections gets $336,000 in transition costs

01/07/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Although Buddy Johnson is no longer Hillsborough County’s Supervisor of Elections, his negative legacy continues.

Today the County Commission voted unanimously to provide Johnson’s successor, Phyllis Busasnky, $336,000 for transition costs to clean up a financial mess left in Johnson’s wake.

That’s the only amount that the County’s Audit Director, Dan Pohto, suggested be given to the office in a report released earlier this week. It’s far shy of the $2.3 million that Johnson had asked for last month. But he said today the office may need more money relatively soon.

Phyllis Busansky’s first day on the job was on Tuesday. She says that she has immediately begun working on figuring out the extent of the Supervisor’s Office fiscal conditions.

Also, the office owes the company’s voting machines vendor, Premier Elections Solutions, more than $2 millions. Busansky says she will meet with Premier soon.

Democrat Kevin Beckner said the intention is not a witchhunt to hang Buddy Johnson out to dry, but a responsible investigation into where the money from the supervisor’s office has been going in the past few years.

Other Commissioners were similarly uncharitable toward former Supervisor Buddy Johnson. Kevin White charged Johnson’s Chief of Staff, Kathy Harris, with either lying or being ill informed when she came before the board last month claiming that all of the elections offices bill had been paid.

Commissioner Rose Ferlita said she wasn’t surprised that the Audit Director didn’t receive a lot of cooperation from Johnson’s staff.

Ferlita quoted Johnson’s only comments on the matter, in which he told Fox 13 News Tuesday that "any medium grade accountant would be able to understand, if they read the documents, exactly where every dollar went.” Ferlita said that once the accountants do learn what was spent, they will determine that much of that spending was frivolous.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe said it was incumbent for the confidence of the Hillsborough County taxpayer to learn what was going on in Johnson’s office. As results came in at a snails pace on Election night last November, two members of the County’s Canvassing Board said Premier Solutions needed to be held accountable. Commissioner Jim Norman told Busansky it was important not to let, Premier, off the hook.

The board then voted 7-0 to give Busansky $336,000 in transition costs.

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