Hillsborough Commissioners lambast outgoing elections supervisor
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12/17/08 Mitch E. Perry
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After Democrat Phyllis Busansky defeated Republican Buddy Johnson for Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office last month, it was thought that the many controversies that occurred under Johnson were now a thing of the past.

Not exactly.

A representative from Johnson’s office came before the County Commission today to request $2.3 million to cover "unanticipated expenses" for last month’s election.

The fact that Johnson did not attend did not endear him to the board.

Kathy Harris is Johnson’s chief of staff. She said some of the extra costs were for 220 extra ballot boxes at each voting precinct, that cost more than $1,800.

Johnson’s office is also requesting $300,000 for "transition costs," which confused Commissioner Kevin White. He was told that was primarily for printing and binding costs. White said he wouldn’t approve of the request.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe said he was blindsighted by the request, and had no idea if it was appropriate to allow for the additional funding.

But it was Commissioner Rose Ferlita who expressed outrage, not only about the last hour request, which comes after a series of problems over the five years that Johnson had in office, but that the man himself wasn’t before the commissioners to ask for the funding.

Just elected Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who flagged the item for discussion, said he had spoken with newly elected Supervisor of Elections Phyllis Busasnsky, was out of town. He said she wanted to have $2 million that Johnson requested put into an escrow account until she could review the request.

Busansky’s first day on the job is Jan. 6. The first election she will be responsible will in Plant City a few months later. Saying there is no time to waste, Commissioner Jim Norman suggested that the Clerk of the Court, Hilsborough County, and any representatives of Busansky agree to do a joint audit immediately to learn what is needed for the office in the immediate future.

The Board voted 7-0 to approve Norman’s motion.

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