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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Florida the rules are different here Chapter LXXXI

Tourism tax dollars are being spent to sponsor a British rugby team. I'm a sports fan, and know there is little interest in that sport in Florida. So why is taxpayer money being spent on it. Oh this is the same agency that had its comptroller embezzle over 1.5 million dollars. Such efficient use of tax dollars. Don't you just love Florida?

Linked to- Basil, Bullwinkle, Outside the Beltway,

Following a nine-hour flight, about 30 men checked into the Crowne Plaza on Singer Island, changed into matching green polos and went downstairs to the $2,220 welcome reception that awaited them - compliments of former tourism bureau chief Warren "Mac" McLaughlin.

The private shindig kicked off a six-day tour of Palm Beach County for the Barnes Rugby Football Club, one of the oldest rugby teams in England.

The team had been here at least twice before. And the itinerary was typically the same: two matches and heavy late-night drinking and revelry.

During their second night in town in May 2005, the players took cabs to a dinner party hosted by McLaughlin at the county's $84 million convention center. Each team member contributed $30 for the open bar and steak dinner, but it didn't nearly cover the tab: $2,587.96.

McLaughlin picked up that bill, too, and also paid for $3,100 worth of photographs, records show.

Back in London, the team's president, Neil Bruce Copp, e-mailed McLaughlin his thanks for "one of the greatest tours in our club's history."

"The players had two very hard fought and exciting games, and although the heat drained a lot of excessive fluid out of their bodies, be assured that within a couple of hours they were replenished," Copp wrote.

The wealthy entrepreneur promised to return a little London hospitality on McLaughlin's next visit. "P.S. I have an appointment to see my liver consultant."

McLaughlin spent at least $38,290 on the team between 2003 and 2005 for sponsorships, drinks, dinners and a full set of team jerseys with the bureau's "Best of Everything" motto, records show.

In exchange, the club's Web site was linked to the bureau's, and the bureau's logo was placed around the team's playing field and on promotional material. With the financial contribution, McLaughlin also was welcomed into the British rugby team and given the title of honorary vice president.

Two of McLaughlin's friends also are affiliated with the team: Colin Wright, former head of PGA National Resort & Spa, and Paul Kirby, a London developer. Kirby is the club's honorary secretary. Wright played for the team and remains a sponsor.

The bureau's involvement in the team "has been an excellent promotion and exposure for Palm Beach County in the UK," Wright wrote in an e-mail from London. "It would be a shame if it is not continued."

But few people - including most of the board members McLaughlin reported to - say they knew about the team or the money he was spending.

"Mac really did a good job of hiding some of this stuff," board member Tom Ramiccio said.

The arrangement dates back to at least 2002, but no one can say for sure when it started. The bureau's interim head, Jim Stuber, who has been its outside attorney since its inception, couldn't say who decided to spend money on the team.

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