Saturday, May 2, 2009

More Space Florida Questions

Space Florida gave no-bid deal to founding board member

Robert Block, Orlando Sentinel Space Editor, shined the light on more ethical strangeness on the economic development incentives NGO Space Florida and its head Steve Kohler, as the Florida legislature budget process continues. Earlier this week the NGO's funding was halved and later restored in committee meetings in Tallahassee.

Courtney Stadd, a former top NASA official indicted on charges of steering $9.6 million in agency funds to a consulting client, was chairman of the state committee in 2006 that selected Steve Kohler as president of Space Florida.

He also served as a member of the agency's board until Gov. Charlie Crist replaced him in 2007 because he was not a state resident.

A year later, Space Florida gave Stadd's company, Capitol Alliance Solutions of Bethesda, Md., a $25,000 no-bid contract for a study about the feasibility of building its own launch pad at Cape Canaveral.

Because the contract was under $100,000, the agency could sign the contract without board approval.

The deal with Capitol Alliance Solutions is another in a series of questionable so-called "sole source" contracts and no-bid deals that Space Florida has clinched since its creation three years ago.

One of them, a $195,000 federal lobbying contract with Blank Rome, a Pennsylvania-based law firm with close personal ties to Kohler, almost got the agency's budget this year slashed in half by a state legislator. The money was restored after the agency said the lobbying fees were not paid with state-appropriated money.

Another, a $250,000 grant to a Panhandle medical clinic to set up a "space tourism" program, was pulled back after an investigation by Crist's office. The investigation, prompted by questions from the Orlando Sentinel, found that a $70,000-a-year state employee who had worked on the contract resigned to take a $150,000-a-year job with the Andrews Institute, which won the contract. That probe found the former employee, Brice Harris, may have violated state revolving-door ethics laws. Harris resigned from the clinic, and Space Florida froze $200,000 of the grant money.
Block's full article HERE.

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