Tourism Agency in Shakeup Over Pitbull Payment

By EVA FEDDERLY

MIAMI (CN) – Florida’s tourism marketing agency is undergoing a management shake-up after the state House speaker filed a lawsuit to find out how much the rapper Pit Bull was paid to promote the state in a music video and on social media.

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran sued PDR Productions Inc., a product placement firm, last week, seeking to find out how much it was paid by the Florida Tourism Industry Marketing Corporation, also known as Visit Florida, to have Pitbull become a celebrity tourism ambassador for the state.

PDR Productions had resisted disclosing the information voluntarily, citing concerns over revealing trade secrets.

Pitbull, however, had no such qualms, and on Thursday, two days after Corcoran’s lawsuit was filed, tweeted a link to his 11-page, $1 million contract. The agreement includes covering the production costs of a video for the song “Sexy Beaches.”

Gov. Rick Scott responded by asking Visit Florida’s CEO to step down, and the agency has also eliminated its chief financial officer and chief marketing officer positions.

In an email to the Associated Press, Visit Florida spokesman Tim DeClaire said the outgoing CEO “was in agreement” with the governor’s call for leadership changes and planned to work with the agency’s board on that.

Scott also asked Visit Florida to begin publishing its spending, contracts, salaries, audits and other financial information.

“The notion that Visit Florida spending would not be transparent to the taxpayers is just ridiculous. We must have major reforms at Visit Florida in the weeks ahead that require new leadership,” Scott said in a letter to William Talbert, who chairs the agency’s board of directors.

Visit Florida is a non-profit organization created to help serve economic development in Florida, using tourism promotion and marketing services.

The House Appropriations Committee has been investigating Visit Florida’s public funds usage.

Cocoran said he filed his lawsuit because by not revealing the terms of its contract with Pitbull, defendant “PDR, in turn, is impeding the House’s legislative prerogative to publicly investigate the use of taxpayer dollars and interfering with the transparency of that process.”

“It is unfortunate that it took litigation to lift the veil of secrecy on this particular contract,” Corcoran said in a statement after Pitbull’s tweet. “This was a long unnecessary journey through claims of trade secrets, threats of prosecution, and corporate welfare paid for by taxpayers.”