Friday, December 09, 2016

Governor RICK SCOTT Plays Scrooge to Charities, State Employees?

Profiteering off state employee charitable contributions is wrong. The State of Florida outside contractor (SOLIX) should be subjected to criminal, civil and administrative investigations, as well as the Governor RICK SCOTT wrecking crew members responsible for this witch's brew of bad contracting and bad policy.

Once again, Governor SCOTT resembles Scrooge.

AP FLORIDA Florida to state workers: You can't give at the office now
Published: December 8, 2016
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Following negative publicity about administrative costs, as well as a critical audit, the administration of Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday that it had suspended a program that allowed state workers to make charitable donations through their paychecks.

Participation in the annual charity drive - which began nearly 40 years ago - had plummeted since the Scott administration shifted control from the United Way of Florida to a New Jersey company called Solix. Due to the way the state structured the contract Solix in 2014 and 2015 wound up getting paid more than it was distributing to charities.

Back in 2010 state employees donated more than $3.3 million to charities through the program, but this fall they only pledged $280,000. Under its contract Solix stood to earn $180,000 - or 63 percent - of the money pledged. Department of Management Services Secretary Chad Poppell last month asked Solix to lower its fees, but the company said it couldn't find a way to reduce costs any further.

Company officials asked to terminate the contract with the state and Poppell agreed. He notified employees that their donations would not be deducted from their paychecks. He urged them to donate to charities directly. His decision to suspend the program was first reported by The Tallahassee Democrat.

Maggie Mickler, a spokeswoman for Poppell, said that Solix had "worked in good faith" with the state and blamed the drop in participation on the ability of employees to use online methods to donate to their favorite charities.

"Employees don't value this method of giving anymore," Mickler said.

A representative for Solix did not respond to an email requesting comment.

But State Rep. Loranne Ausley, a Democrat who represents the state capital, called the decision "short sighted" and said it would be a blow for charities around Tallahassee who had come to rely on help from state employees. The state employee campaign was the only one authorized to solicit state workers during work hours.

"It's a double whammy for our community," Ausley said.

State law requires the charity drive to be run by an outside company or organization. But it had traditionally been handled by the United Way until the Scott administration awarded the contract to Solix. In 2015, the Scott administration renewed the contract for another three years. At that time Solix was being represented by Bill Rubin, a long-time friend of Gov. Scott, and Chris Finkbeiner, a former top aide who worked on Scott's re-election campaign.

But the Tallahassee Democrat late last year publicized how much money Solix was receiving as part of the contract - which resulted in state workers rescinding their pledges and state officials renegotiating the company fee. In May, state auditors sharply criticized the charity drive as well, pointing out that the Department of Management Services did not initially document costs incurred by Solix. The audit also found that between January 2013 and December 2015, state officials did not verify that the vendor distributed the right amounts to charities designated for help by state workers.

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