Ouster of Sports Authority head brings back familiar political tension

03/17/09 Mitch E. Perry
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The longtime head of the Tampa Sports Authority, Henry Saavedra, has resigned, effective April 1. Saavedra stepped down yesterday shortly before the agency’s 11 member board of directors was prepared to vote on a motion from Chair Vince Marchetti to terminate his contract.

The Board voted 6-5 to accept the resignation.

But his supporters on the board are angry.

The Tampa Sports Authority (TSA) is responsible for developing and maintaining Raymond James Stadium, the home of the NFL Tampa Bay Bucaneers and USF Bulls football team, as well as three golf course owned by the city of Tampa.

Current Board Chairman Vince Marchetti orchestrated the removal of Saavedra. He wrote a memo last week listing reasons why he believed that Saavedra had to go. Among those reasons were that Saavedra had failed to alert the board to the potential for major financial losses and for failing to quickly cut expenses.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman supports Saavedra’s ouster. He said that many of the issues as to why he thinks the TSA director needed to go were no secret, having occurred over the years and were part of his evaluation.

Norman lists as one example when interest rates began dropping, the County tried to refinance the stadium, but learned that the bonds that were sold by the Sports Authority did not have an automatic trigger to be refinanced.

But to Bob Buckhorn, those criticisms don’t meet the smell test for why Saavedra was forced off the board.

Buckhorn said some of the same charges against Saavaedra were used last year to get rid of the TSA’s previous in house attorney, John Van Voris, who was forced to step down down last October.

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