A Times Editorial
Frank Peterman should repay taxpayers for unjustifiable travel expenses
In Print: Sunday, January 10, 2010
Dual airport parking fees. Tampa hotel rooms a short drive from his St. Petersburg home. Roughly $1,800
in airline ticket change fees. That's just a sampling of a preliminary inspector general report on more
than $44,000 in travel expenses by Frank Peterman, the secretary of the state Department of Juvenile
Justice. The former state legislator needs to repay taxpayers a reasonable portion of this unjustifiable
expense and change his ways or resign.
The report confirms that much of the public money spent on travel helped Peterman divide his work
week between Tallahassee and St. Petersburg, where he remains a pastor. His defense — he says he
was "reasonably responsible" with taxpayer money — shows he doesn't appreciate why he is under
scrutiny. Peterman used taxpayer money to facilitate a private life that remains in St. Petersburg, though
his $120,000 full-time job is based in Tallahassee.
The inspector general investigation, ordered by Gov. Charlie Crist in November after the St. Petersburg
Times detailed Peterman's excessive trips to the Tampa area, shows Peterman frequently works in
Tallahassee only three days a week, spending Mondays and Fridays in St. Petersburg. His Tallahassee
secretary said she frequently had to reschedule flights because he overslept (he blames traffic or late
meetings). And records show he often opted for costly short-term parking at airports or claimed airport
parking charges for both Tallahassee and Tampa on the same trip.
Maintaining a regular schedule in St. Petersburg has also brought other expenses for taxpayers:
Peterman ordered $26,000 in renovations for the department's St. Petersburg office shortly after being
appointed, and he hired a part-time secretary who is a member of his church to work for him there.
Nonetheless, Peterman also billed the state $785 for five nights in hotels in connection with two Tampa
Peterman has argued it's part of his job to get to field offices and see how the agency is serving the
state's wayward children. He's right. But the inspector general report suggests that Peterman hasn't
been traveling around the state — just to St. Petersburg.
The issue isn't that Peterman routinely works from a satellite office in his hometown. Many agency heads
have done so over the years, using their own money or providing more benefit to taxpayers. Peterman
has tried to mask his exploitation of the taxpayers as fulfilling some job role. It suggests a sense of
entitlement and a failure to appreciate tough economic times. He should repay taxpayers and change his
travel habits or resign.
[Last modified: Jan 08, 2010 06:14 PM]