Hillsborough to further investigate Buddy Johnson's tenure

02/04/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Hillsborough County Commissioners today voted to forward the results of an audit that details financial mismanagement by former County Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson to legal authorities.

The motion was proposed by Commissioner Rose Ferlita. The move arose after Johnson’s successor, Phyllis Busansky, came before the Board today to ask for money to settle an outstanding bill that Johnson left for her. She said the county still owes Premiere Election Solutions, the company who has provided the county its optical voting scan machines.

Commissioners were poised to hear Busansky request more than $2 million to pay back Premiere. But she was able to pleasantly surprise them with the terms worked out with the vendor. Still, the board approved $2.2 million to pay Premiere.

Busansky also announced that she was finalizing plans for a second audit from the accounting firm of Ernst & Young, to detail activities from October through Jan. 5, Johnson’s last day on the job.

The first audit from Ernst & Young was released last night. That audit said Johnson mishandled grant money, failed to properly oversee finances within his office, and broke state law by overspending his budget to the tune of $942,000.

Busansky said she has been communicating with the Secretary of State Kurt Browning about the mess she’s trying to unravel. The new Supervisor of Elections also told the Board that she only has $300,000 left in her budget for this fiscal year, and will be coming back before them later this year for additional funding.

Busansky’s requests were received with unanimous approval by a board that seems intent on cleaning up the Supervisor’s office and moving away from the memory of Buddy Johnson as quickly as possible.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, some of the expenses that could have led to the deficit that Johnson left Busansky included spending $23,000 for pens that were handed out to voters that listed Johnson’s name on them.

During the campaign last year, Busansky complained that those pens and other items, like a van that also prominently displayed Johnson’s name, were an improper use of taxpayers dollars to benefit Johnson politically.

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