Saturday, January 24, 2009

Space-tourism deal spurs state investigation

Aaron Deslatte and Robert Block, Orlando Sentinel Staff Writers

TALLAHASSEE - Last year, Brice Harris, an employee in Gov. Charlie Crist's tourism and economic-development office, shepherded a deal to give a Panhandle sports-medicine clinic a $500,000 contract to train tourists for the rigors of spaceflight.

E-mails and other documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel show he was involved even in the minutiae of the negotiations, down to the design of the logos and shoulder patches the would-be space tourists would wear.

Then in August, shortly after the project had been provisionally approved by agencies that included Brevard-based Space Florida, Harris resigned his $70,000-a-year state job -- to take a job overseeing the project for the company he had helped get it.

State ethics laws prohibit government employees from taking a job with a company if they were involved in any way with negotiating a contract with the company. After Harris quit, a high-ranking member of the governor's staff wrote that his involvement with the company would lead to a "disaster" if exposed.

An Orlando Sentinel Exclusive: EXPOSED HERE

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