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Sink or swim: Who was watching Fla. courthouse construction?

By Tom Fetters

To an office seeker looking to make some political hay, the new courthouse in Tallahassee, Fla., might resemble a vast expanse of healthy alfalfa ready for its third cutting.

The so-called Taj Mahal courthouse cost the state’s taxpayers $11 million more than it should have, and numerous rules and guidelines were violated during planning and construction, according to accounts by The Orlando Sentinel and The Associated Press of an audit by Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink’s office.

(Photo courtesy of aerophoto.com)

(Photo courtesy of Aerophoto.com)

Sink also is the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Florida.

The opulent building for the 1st District Court of Appeal features 20 miles of African mahogany borders, granite countertops and etched glass, according to the accounts. It cost $48.8 million, but could have been constructed for the $39.7 million originally appropriated with money left over, Sink said at a news conference.

In addition, according to the accounts, the project’s construction was not competitively bid, and the state’s Department of Management Services allowed a group of judges from the 1st District Court of Appeal to effectively oversee the project.

Sink said she learned about the project’s extravagance when she read a St. Petersburg Times story about it in August, according to the accounts. She then ordered the audit.

“What stands out to me is the appalling lack of leadership by the responsible parties throughout the entire process,” she is quoted by the AP as saying during the news conference, “the fact that no one was standing up and saying ‘What about the taxpayers?’”

Spoken like a true candidate just weeks before Election Day.

Tom Fetters is a copy editor at The Daily Reporter. He can’t even imagine what 20 miles of African mahogany borders, granite countertops and etched glass looks like.

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