Guarding Harris has cost $50,000
By LUCY MORGAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 22, 2001
Since the election, state taxpayers have paid
for FDLE agents to guard Katherine Harris on trips abroad and in Washington.
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida's taxpayers have spent almost
$50,000 providing security services for Secretary of State Katherine Harris
since last year's election.
Agents for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
began guarding Harris on Nov. 15, 2000, during last year's election crisis
and continued to provide round-the-clock security for her home and office
off and on until Feb. 6. They accompanied Harris during six days of
festivities surrounding George W. Bush's inauguration in Washington in
January and again last month on a seven-day trip to South America.
FDLE agents traditionally provide security only for
governors and their immediate family, but state law allows them to guard any
Cabinet officer upon special request from the governor or the Cabinet
member. They also provide security for visiting governors, ambassadors,
presidents, heads of state and others when help is requested by the governor
or a Cabinet member. Other members of the state Cabinet say they have not
requested similar security for themselves, but agree that Harris' situation
was unprecedented. "If anyone is at risk, I'd assume that FDLE would
automatically provide security," Attorney General Bob Butterworth said
Tuesday. Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher agreed that Harris was in a
"She's been in the middle of a lot of high profile
stuff," Gallagher said Tuesday. "She's a hero to one group and a demon to
others. That makes her a target." Butterworth, a Democrat who was
Florida chairman for Vice President Al Gore, said he was not aware of the
security being provided for Harris. "If I had gone to the last
inauguration, I probably would have needed protection," Butterworth joked.
Butterworth refused to comment when asked if he thought the state's
taxpayers should pay for security provided to Harris at political events
surrounding an inaugural. "I've always found security at inaugural events to
be very good," Butterworth said. Butterworth said he has gone to past
inaugurations, when Democrats were sworn in, and found all of the events to
be "very political."
Dave Mann, the assistant secretary who serves as
Harris' top assistant, says he requested help as a result of all the
inflammatory rhetoric and threats that accompanied the presidential recount.
It was an extraordinary time. Television news crews from all over the world
were camped on the Capitol lawn and chanting protesters frequently
surrounded the building. The 36-day period ended when Bush won a U.S.
Supreme Court case that gave him the White House. In addition to
providing security for Harris at home and work, FDLE agents also traveled
with Harris to Washington in January and accompanied her on a six-day round
of parties and meetings leading up to the Bush inauguration. Harris also
asked agents to accompany her while she testified at a hearing before the
U.S. Civil Rights Commission in Tallahassee in mid January.
And on July 15, when Harris took off for Argentina and
Uruguay, agents went along to provide protection in Buenos Aires and
Montevideo. Harris was leading a small cultural exchange mission to the two
countries at the same time Gov. Jeb Bush was leading an economic mission to
Argentina and Brazil. Harris' international travels have already drawn
criticism from legislators who have appointed a special review committee to
examine her expenses. Since taking office in January 1999, Harris has
greatly expanded the emphasis of international relations in her office and
traveled to a number of countries at state expense. Mann said he made the
decision to request security for Harris because he felt there "was a clear
and present danger to her safety."
Mann said he discussed the situation with the FDLE and
they agreed that she could be in danger. "Regardless of the nature of
the event, the performance of her duties created a need for protection,"
Mann said. Harris was out of the country on personal leave this week and
could not be reached for comment. As Harris presided over Florida's
close presidential race last year, she became the butt of late-night
comedians and was repeatedly vilified by Democrats who accused her of
helping steal the election for Bush. Thousands of Americans e-mailed her. A
few threatened her.
Much of the criticism leveled at Harris came because
she served as one of several co-chairs of Bush's presidential campaign in
Florida. Her role in certifying Bush as the winner of last year's election
drew praise from Republicans who made her the toast of the town during
Two FDLE agents who accompanied her to Washington
billed the state $8,350 for inaugural events, an expense that was paid by
the secretary of state's office account to FDLE. The tab included the hourly
wages of each agent, rooms costing more than $250 a night at the Ritz
Carlton in Washington, D.C., food and drink and round-trip air fare. The
FDLE has submitted a bill for $14,131 for the trip to Argentina and Uruguay
and expects to be reimbursed by Harris' Department of State. The largest
single expense for security services for Harris was for salaries paid to the
agents who provided security at her home and office in the days after the
election: $24,671. When other expenses were added, the total for security at
her home and office was $25,850.
"This was my call," Mann said. "Her trips received a
great deal of publicity and there was an encounter with a stalker in South
America." Officials at the FDLE said the stalker was a man at an
airport who continuously watched Harris as she waited for an airplane, but
made no attempt to approach her. The man was not confronted by the agents
traveling with her. Last November, the FDLE investigated a threat
against Harris made by a man who called her office and demanded to be on the
presidential ballot. The Central Florida man was identified as a person who
had made false 911 calls accusing the sheriff of one county of being a
pedophile and a state attorney of drug trafficking. The man lived near
Orlando, owned no vehicle and has no record of violent offenses but was seen
by FDLE investigators as a possible threat to Harris when the situation was
evaluated in November 2000.
Although Florida law leaves it to FDLE Director James
T. "Tim" Moore to determine when security for a Cabinet member or a visiting
dignitary is "in the best interest of the state," it would be all but
impossible for the agency to refuse such a request since the governor and
Cabinet collectively serve as his bosses. Moore said the situation
surrounding Harris was extremely unusual. He said he takes such requests
very seriously and relies on advice from professional officers who assess
the potential for danger. The law limits such service to events where there
is a "public purpose" or where the failure to provide security would result
"in a clear and present danger to the personal safety" of a person "or could
result in public embarrassment to the state."
Was Moore uncomfortable providing agents at what was
essentially a political event?
"The law doesn't distinguish between state business
and a political event," he said.
08/16/01; Florida Secretary of State
Katherine Harris will be in Iowa next month for two Republican fund raisers,
and a top state Republican official said, "She's in demand right now. She's
a high-profile Republican, and a lot of people want to meet her."
reform: late and underpriced?
By Nancy Cook Lauer
DEMOCRAT CAPITOL BUREAU CHIEF
There is probably no more telling example of
why the state needs a central voter registration database than the discovery
last week that Secretary of State Katherine Harris was registered to vote in
two counties. But that project - one of a list of election
reforms lawmakers passed earlier this year - is in danger of not being
completed in time for the 2002 elections, according to an official with the
Florida Association of Court Clerks. The group was negotiating with the
State Division of Elections to take over the project, but talks fell through
and now the Elections Division plans to go it alone.
"We still would hope there's a possibility
the deal can be put back together, but it's going to have to be done real
fast," Roger Alderman, executive director of the clerks' association, said
The discovery that Harris had been registered
in both Leon and Sarasota counties came as part of a weeklong media
inspection of four hard drives used in her offices during the 2000
presidential election. The media, including the Tallahassee Democrat,
contracted with Minnesota-based Ontrack Data International to recover
deleted files and other information from the hard drives.
Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion
Sancho says the voter registration database is one of several aspects of
election reform that the state simply must move forward on.
"Florida elections are going to be
scrutinized to such an extent that we cannot afford to have any errors,"
Sides split on ownership, cost
Alderman said the original plan was to begin
putting the voter registration database together in July and completing it
by June 1, 2002. He thinks the county clerks can do it more quickly than the
Division of Elections because they already have a statewide network in place
and experience in implementing similar systems, such as the statewide child
support database. But Elections Division Director Clay Roberts
said the Department of State has similar experience, including its "Sunbiz"
Web site for corporations and a database for state business licenses, and
can get a system up and running in time. Roberts bristles at a charge by
Sancho that he's sandbagging the process so the division can keep the
"There are a lot of things I need to do over
the next year, and I didn't particularly need to be taking on another
project," Roberts said.
Sancho doesn't share Roberts' confidence. The
state maintains the obviously problematic system currently in use. It was
also in charge of a contract with a company that wrongly purged qualified
voters from the database, thinking they were felons ineligible to vote. The
entire registration system, Sancho said, is an "unmitigated disaster."
"I am frustrated," Sancho said. "As a
supervisor of elections, I have to have a database that works."
At issue between the clerks and the state, in
addition to price, is ownership of the computer code for the program.
Alderman said it's customary for the Association of Court Clerks to share
ownership with state agencies so it can update the code as needed. Roberts
says if taxpayers are paying for it, they should own it. Price became an issue when lawmakers set
aside $2 million to create the database and about $500,000 a year to
maintain it. But the clerks estimate it will cost $1.2 million a year
because they hadn't anticipated three security and validation audits each
year when they put their estimate together.
Media make discoveries
Harris' dual registration was by no means the
most embarrassing information Ontrack Data exposed. Also brought to light
from the 48 compact disc set containing tens of thousands of documents that
reporters sifted through last week:
- A computer assigned to Harris'
then-Communications Director Donald Tighe was used for a speech Harris was
supposed to give March 14, 2000, promoting George W. Bush for president.
Harris maintains the document was merely e-mailed to Tighe, but Tighe said
in a published interview that he worked on it on the state-owned computer.
- Harris herself confided in a Jan. 29,
2000, speech written on her office computer that "I am a bit biased -
after all I co-chair the campaign effort of George W. Bush."
- Someone in Harris' office ran an Internet
query on Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente a week after the election,
looking at information about her campaign qualifications and treasurer.
- Harris' former campaign manager Marc
Reichelderfer acknowledged he was the e-mailer code-named "gopspinner" who
received a message on a state computer Nov. 17 titled "Harris Speech."
Harris has denied she knew who gopspinner was.
- Harris prepared drafts of letters
proclaiming Bush the winner before the recount in Palm Beach County was
concluded. The recounted votes were eventually rejected.
- A Feb. 11, 2000, document by “mgarrard,”
most likely Maureen Garrard, one of Harris' aides, touts a Republican “sea
change” in Tallahassee and gives thanks for support for Republican
Democrats, predictably, are outraged and are
calling upon Harris to resign. But Harris, who is considering a run for
Congress next year from her home District 13, has called the Democrats'
statements "silly." Her current post will become an appointive office in
State awaits approval
While Harris' partisan politicking makes news
at home, justice officials in Washington are poring over the state's
election reform plan to see whether it passes muster with the federal Voting
Rights Act. The Department of Justice has final approval because it had
found five counties - Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe - to
have a history of discrimination.
The Florida Equal Voting Rights Project, a
consortium of the American Civil Liberties Foundation of Florida, the
Florida Institute of Justice and Florida Legal Services, has asked the
Justice Department not to approve three components of the new law. The civil
rights group is opposed to the posting of a voter responsibilities list at
polling places, a new process of purging felons from the voter registration
and a law allowing provisional ballots only if the voter is at the correct
The Justice Department is expected to make a
decision before the month is out.
Contact Nancy Cook Lauer at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 222-6729.
Harris voting mix-up
unnoticed for months
By Jim Ash, Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau
Thursday, August 9, 2001
TALLAHASSEE -- Secretary of State Katherine Harris, the state's top
elections officer, was registered to vote in two different counties for
nearly seven months before aides caught the error, records from her own
computers show. Harris properly filled out a new Leon County voter registration form on
Sept. 2, 1999, after winning office and moving to the capital. But her staff
did not discover until shortly before Florida's presidential primary in
March 2000 that she was still registered to vote in her home county,
A Leon County election official on Wednesday blamed "human error" for a
lack of communication between her office and Sarasota County. But she also
said the state's flawed and much-maligned central voter file -- maintained
by Harris' office -- should have flagged the mistake. "Once the secretary of state's office notified us that dual enrollment
had actually occurred, the potential for embarrassment was obvious," said
Janet Olin, Leon County assistant supervisor of elections. "They were pretty
tense about it."
It is not illegal to be registered to vote in two different counties, but
a voter who casts more than one ballot in a single election is guilty of a
third-degree felony. The law also requires voters to cast their ballots
where they reside. Harris voted only in Leon County when she had the dual
registration. The slip-up surfaced in one of thousands of documents salvaged from
Harris' office computers by forensic experts hired by a media consortium,
including The Palm Beach Post, to investigate last year's presidential
election debacle. Released Tuesday, the documents include a deleted e-mail dated March 6,
2000. The unidentified author caught and corrected Harris' dual registration
after reporters asked to accompany Harris to her Tallahassee precinct to
watch her vote in the presidential primary.
The author asked Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho to fax a
notice to Sarasota County Elections Supervisor Marilyn Gerkin. Harris can't be blamed for Sancho's failure, said her spokesman, David
Host. "The law clearly puts the responsibility on the supervisor of elections,
Mr. Sancho," Host said. "Their attempt to pass the buck is clearly
disingenuous." Gerkin, who has since left office, said she did not remember the
incident. She said she would need to review records at her former office
before commenting at length.
"You don't remove anyone until you're notified," she said.
Gerkin's successor, Kathy Dent, said her office has a copy of the fax
sent from Leon County on March 6, 2000. Dent's records show that Harris was
purged from the Sarasota rolls the next day. Supervisors are required by law to notify a voter's former elections
supervisor within two weeks of an address change, although there is no
penalty for failing to comply. The state is supposed to update its central
voter file, which contains information on nearly 9 million voters, every
three months to reflect changes of address, felony convictions and deaths.
If a dual registration is discovered, the state is supposed to notify
both election supervisors.
However, serious flaws in the central voting list became painfully
evident last year when an intense spotlight fell on Florida in the wake of
the disputed presidential election. Black voters complained that they were turned away from the polls after
they were improperly listed as felons. Media investigations showed that the
state rolls were littered with convicted felons and deceased voters. "Anybody that had to depend on the central voter file as it existed was
in serious trouble," Dent said.
Tony Welch, a spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party, said the fact
that Harris was listed on two voting rolls for so many months proves she is
unqualified to do her job. "I guess they had a computer program that only purged Democrats," Welch
said. "When they can't even catch a problem with the top elections officer
in the state, that's just sad." Florida Democratic Party Chairman Bob Poe on Wednesday called on Harris
to resign, citing media reports that revealed her office computers were used
to promote George W. Bush's presidential campaign.
Host, the Harris spokesman, said she has no intention of stepping down. Harris issued a brief response: "I am focusing my efforts on the concerns
of the people of Florida. Mr. Poe is focused on divisive partisan politics." Harris, a Republican, served as co-chair of George W. Bush's Florida
election campaign and maintained she kept a "fire wall" between her partisan
and non-partisan roles.
She is eyeing a bid for Congress next year from her hometown of Sarasota,
although she has not said when she will make her formal decision.
Lawmakers this spring pledged $2 million to update the central voter file
as part of sweeping election reforms. The new system is supposed to be
completed by June and is supposed to have the capability of updating most
address changes the same day a voter registers, said state Division of
Elections Director Clay Roberts.
Staff writer Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this story.
Harris Computers Show Bush
By THOMAS C. TOBIN, ALISA ULFERTS and ALICIA
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 8,
Documents renew the debate about
whether she was impartial during the historic election recount.
TALLAHASSEE -- Nine months before she
refereed Florida's disputed election recount, Secretary of State Katherine
Harris used her office computers to prepare political speeches about the man
she fondly referred to as "W."
"I'm a bit biased,"
say the remarks drafted
for Harris' delivery at the GOP's winter meeting on Jan. 29, 2000, in
The speech in support of George W. Bush was
copied from a state-owned computer in Harris' office and released Tuesday to
several media outlets.
In it, Harris notes that she was co-chair of
Bush's Florida campaign, and states: "After 7 years of Democrat rule in the
White House we need to send the loudest possible message that we are ready
That text was among thousands of documents
unearthed during review by a Minneapolis company of hard drives in four
computers in Harris' office. The data recovery company was hired by several
media outlets, including the St. Petersburg Times, after questions arose
recently about whether Harris' office deleted computer files in the
controversial aftermath of the Nov. 7 election. Officials with Ontrack Data International,
which conducted the media review, said Tuesday that some information had
been deleted from computer hard drives in Harris' office, but that it
appeared the loss occurred inadvertently when the operating systems for
those computers were changed recently.
It could not be immediately determined
whether Harris actually delivered the Orlando speech. But the text, along
with other partisan documents found on her computer files, have renewed the
long-simmering debate about her role in the historic election. Was she the impartial arbiter that her
supporters said she was -- a faithful guardian of Florida's election law? Or
was she the partisan figure her critics imagined, working behind the scenes
on Bush's behalf?
The New York Times reported in July that two
political consultants helped craft Harris' public statements during the
intense days of Florida's recount. The New York Times report questioned
whether the Republican operatives influenced how Harris told elections
officials to treat overseas absentee ballots. In a statement released Tuesday, Harris said
a parallel inquiry by her own data recovery expert was an unprecedented step
of openness that uncovered no evidence of destroyed computer files and no
partisan activity in her office "during the recount period," which lasted
from Nov. 8 to December 13.
Her spokesman, David Host, said Harris was
not worried about how her pre-election remarks on behalf of Bush would be
interpreted. "Her policy is no apologies, no excuses, no regrets," Host
The St. Petersburg Times reviewed the
computer files provided by Ontrack and found no documents indicating Harris
showed favoritism during the post-election period. The only notable record from those 36 days
was a schedule entitled "The Final Decision -- Crunch Week," which laid out
Harris' schedule the week she certified the results of the election. The itinerary included a "wardrobing" session
on Monday, a rehearsal for a press conference on Tuesday and deciding how to
handle overseas ballots on Wednesday.
Some said the secretary of state's words and
deeds before Nov. 7 were just as important as those in the 36 days that
"We think there are some grounds for concern
there," said Ben Wilcox, executive director of Common Cause of Florida, a
government watchdog group. "It's our position that if an official is in a
position to make decisions involving elections -- whether they are county
supervisors or at the state level -- they have a responsibility to act in a
non-partisan manner. Especially in this situation, where she later was in
the position of making crucial decisions."
Bob Poe, chairman of the Florida Democratic
Party, said the state should be reimbursed by the Bush campaign.
"We always suspected that she was
moonlighting as secretary of state and was working for the Bush campaign,
and now we have evidence," Poe said. "It's illegal to use state computers
and state property for partisan purposes. Now we know what she was trying to
hide." In the past, the state Ethics Commission has
found violations of state law when public officials have privately used
stationery, postage or other resources purchased at public expense, said
Phil Claypool, the commission's general counsel. He added, however, that he could not comment
on whether Harris' situation constituted a violation. "I don't have the
facts for that," he said.
Host, the Harris spokesman, said the
political portions of Harris' speeches were drafted on private computers and
sent to state computers so they could be incorporated with the non-political
"Neither of those were created in this office
but they were sent to this office," Host said. He said he didn't know who
Indeed, the speech contains passages where
Harris sticks to her non-partisan role, several times emphasizing the
importance of voter turnout. But it frequently veers into the political
realm, at one point saying: "I have to tell you how great it was to campaign
with Jeb (Gov. Jeb Bush, George W. Bush's brother) in the snows of New
Hampshire last weekend, delivering Florida oranges door to door! The
camaraderie (sic) and support we all felt was so positive . . . we hardly
noticed the cold. We were working together for someone we believe in and
felt wonderful. I want you to have that feeling too. I hope it will be "W'."
Other politically tinged documents in the
files include a list of "talking points" written for a Harris speech on the
March 14, 2000, presidential primary. On that occasion, she was scheduled to
deliver remarks that were complimentary of the future president. They ended
with the comment: "And that is why I so strongly support his nomination by
our party and his election in November." In a third document are undated notes for a
pre-election speech to some Collier County officials. Among the points
Harris wanted to make: "Exciting opportunity to change Washington" and "New
millennium in Florida for Republicans."
The records became an issue last month after
the New York Times reported it had been told by Harris' office that some
computer data had been erased.
Harris hired her own computer expert, William
G. Morgan of Bradenton, who on Tuesday finished his report on the state of
the hard drives. Morgan is director of software development for Indigo
Investment Systems. Host said Morgan's report, hundreds of pages
long, shows that no public records on the computers had been destroyed. The
report wasn't immediately available Tuesday evening, but Host said it would
be distributed as soon as possible.
"We feel totally vindicated," Host said.
Harris' office has repeatedly stressed that
allowing media organizations to scrutinize the hard drives was above and
beyond her obligations as secretary of state. Besides, Holt has said, all
public records that were on the computers in question had already been
released to the media. But Holt said Tuesday he wasn't certain if
the Jan. 29 and March 14 political speeches were among the paper stacks
released earlier or if they surfaced only after the media groups unearthed
the records themselves on the hard drives.
"I'd have to go back and look at all the
public records requests" to see if those two had been released, Host said.
But that wasn't the main issue, he said. "At
this point that's speculation. . . . All public records were released."
- Times staff writers Barry Klein and Stephen
Hegarty and researchers Deirdre Morrow and Stephanie Scruggs contributed to
say Harris should resign
By ALISA ULFERTS
© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 9, 2001
Democrats urged Secretary of State Katherine Harris to resign Wednesday, the
day after media groups found Republican political documents on her office
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida
Democrats urged Secretary of State Katherine Harris to resign Wednesday, the
day after media groups found Republican political documents on her office
Democrats are especially
puzzled about a query someone in Harris' office ran on Supreme Court Justice
Barbara Pariente a week after the election. The record came off the
Secretary of State Web site and notes Pariente's campaign qualifications and
treasurer. "We don't know what it means
but it raises questions," said Democratic Party spokesman Tony Welch. One of
those questions is whether it marked an early attempt to glean information
about the justices who ultimately heard the cases challenging the outcome of
the disputed election.
"It makes you wonder," Welch
Harris spokesman David Host
said Harris didn't know who ran that query or why. The St. Petersburg Times
found no indication whether that query represented official business in her
office or unofficial political scrutiny. The record was one of tens of
thousands of records unearthed during a review by a Minneapolis company of
hard drives in Harris' office. Those records included a
political speech and talking points prepared for Harris that supported
then-candidate George W. Bush.
One speech prepared for
Harris said: "I am a bit biased -- after all -- I co-chair the campaign
effort of George W. Bush."
Someone, it was not
immediately clear who, used Harris' computers to send e-mail under the name
All of that is enough to
convince Democrats that Harris should resign. Democratic Party Chairman Bob
Poe accused her of illegally using her office to call November's contested
election for George W. Bush.
"Katherine Harris has
violated the public trust with the Florida voters and proven she is not
capable of being an impartial Secretary of State. It's time for her to end
the charade and the nightmare of her tenure and simply resign,"
Poe said in
Host called the Democrats'
demand "absurd." Through him, Harris said: "I am focusing my efforts on the
concerns of the people of Florida. Mr. Poe has focused on divisive partisan
politics." Republican Party spokesman
Daryl Duwe called the Democrats' call "a real reach." "Surely they're not saying
that every Democratic official who supported Gore would withstand that kind
of voluntary scrutiny."
More than a dozen media
groups, including the St. Petersburg Times, hired Ontrack Data International
to recover computer records after questions arose recently about whether
Harris' office deleted files in the controversial aftermath of the Nov. 7
election. Harris had asked two
Republican friends to help her draft public statements on state computers
during the month-long recount.
Ontrack said Tuesday that
some information had been deleted from computer hard drives in Harris'
office, but that it appeared the loss occurred inadvertently when the
operating systems for those computers were changed recently.
-- Times Staff Writer Alicia
Caldwell and researchers Deirdre Morrow and Stephanie Scruggs contributed to
Millions for Harris' Trips
By LUCY MORGAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 31,
Legislators from her own party are questioning
the emphasis put on overseas travel.
TALLAHASSEE -- For her role
in last year's election recount that led to a George W. Bush victory,
Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris has been the darling of
Republicans across the nation.
But closer to home,
forays overseas are under fire from legislators from her own party.
Buried on page 363 of the
420-page state budget is the creation of a special review committee to look
at the $3.4-million Harris budgeted for international relations this year
and the money spent since she took office.
Legislative leaders are
questioning the emphasis that Harris has put on international travel and in
establishing relationships with other countries while failing to adequately
deal with the state's election problems. The review committee is being
appointed by Senate President John McKay, House Speaker Tom Feeney and Gov.
Jeb Bush. The committee, with support
from the state Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government
Accountability, is to review and evaluate all of her expenditures on
international affairs since July 1, 1999, and produce a report.
Earlier this year, Senate
leaders quietly eliminated the money from her budget, assigning it instead
to Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development agency. After the
House refused to go along, the Senate agreed to restore the money but
insisted on an investigation. The situation was not
discussed in public but was handled behind the scenes with the resulting
agreement deep in the state budget for 2001-2002.
Feeney said he disagreed with
the Senate and felt Harris was an able advocate to foreign countries, but
some high-ranking members of the Senate disagreed.
"I thought she was a huge
advocate to the state," Feeney said Monday.
Harris did not return
repeated telephone calls seeking comment. David Host, her spokesman, said
Harris welcomes the examination but would not directly discuss it with the
St. Petersburg Times. A spokeswoman for McKay said
the Senate questioned whether two different state agencies should be delving
into international relations. McKay has appointed former
Sen. Bob Johnson of Sarasota and Robert Beitler, general counsel for
Comptroller Bob Milligan, to serve as his representatives on the committee.
On Monday, Bush appointed
Matilde M. Amarchand, 40, of Spring Hill, to serve on the committee. She is
manager of economic development for the Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Feeney
has yet to make her appointments. Harris was criticized for
spending too much time on international relations during last year's
election crisis. She has focused much of her work since her election in 1998
on developing the office's foray into international relations. Before Harris was elected,
those who held the office focused more on supervising elections and
developing historical and cultural exhibitions, leaving the international
relations to the old Florida Department of Commerce and Enterprise Florida
once it was created in 1996.
Harris sees her department as
"truly becoming a state department" for Florida, more like the U.S. State
Department. Her travels have included
trips to Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Venezuela, Canada, Panama, Mexico and
Deputy Secretary of State Ben
McKay compared the way Harris delves into international relations with the
way the U.S. departments of State and Commerce work with each other. "They both have international
issues and serve very different functions," McKay said. "The secretary of
state carries out indirect economic development." Among the benefits Florida
receives is her ability to monitor national trade agreements like NAFTA that
work better in some states than others, McKay said.
Budgets for the international
relations have risen from $783,000 in 1999 to $3.4-million in 2000-2001 and
remained the same in the current year budget. She had requested more than
$5-million, but legislators would not approve the increase. She spends more
than $480,000 on salaries for the division offices, which include a
director, a chief of protocol and an international affairs coordinator.
During her first 22 months in
office, Harris amassed more than $106,000 in travel bills, more than any
Cabinet officer and the governor. She visited eight countries on 10 foreign
trips, staying at luxury hotels at taxpayer expense.
Harris defends her
international travel and the focus of her office on it in frequent speeches
citing the importance of international relations to the state's economy. In a speech to the Florida
League of Cities in April 2000 -- before the election -- Harris said her
responsibilities include "promoting our heritage and the arts, overseeing
elections, corporations, licensing, libraries and international affairs."
"Of all those
responsibilities, however, none is closer to my heart than the strengthening
of our international relationships," she added.
Last year her office
established the state's first "Office of Protocol," a program designed to
assist visiting dignitaries from other countries "and address international