Childers still upset about audit of how she handles bed tax

Escambia County Clerk of Court Pam Childers is upset that Tourist Development Council chair David Bear has asked for the Florida Auditor General to conduct an independent audit of the TDC expenditures.

Bear and his board are concerned about alleged irregularities in how Childers accounts for the 3% administration fee her office gets for handling bed tax collections.

At the budget workshop on Wednesday, Childers set a warning to the Visit Pensacola CEO Darren Schaefer, who has been in charge of the organization since April 2020, that he should be worried about Visit Pensacola’s procurement process. She veiled her comments as if it was the Board of County Commissioners that was worried.

It should be noted the budget workshops are for the commissioners to review the county administrator’s proposed budget and the budgets of the constitutional officers and outside agencies, such has Visit Pensacola. The clerk in the past has rarely made comments on the presentations but not this year.

“I’d like to bring something to your attention, Darren, and this has to do with something the commission has requested,” said Childers to Schaefer after his presentation.  “And I want to make sure that it’s communicated because Darren is new and that is your solicited bid for your marketing in this case would be Showcase. I just want to remind you that your chair (Bear) has asked for an Auditor General audit that may or may not come.”

She continued, “But one of the things they look at is your procurement process. You may not know this, but this board has requested a demand that you follow their procurement process. I’m not sure that that has happened yet. I wanted to bring it to your attention because this has been a conversation from the board.”

Childers told him that her staff would get with him and he should look at the  Okaloosa operational audit from the auditor general – “that’s very, very informative and it would be helpful to you.”

Schaefer said Visit Pensacola has restructured its accounting codes to match the county’s.

“I don’t want to get too far on a limb, but I know in discussion of our procurement process, we’ve been trying to follow what the county has been doing and being consistent with those procedures,” he said. “We bid a lot out in 2020 and made a number of changes and part of that was in trying to reduce costs.”

He continued, “Our bid with Showcase was a three-year bid that just went into effect. Sept. 1, 2020, so we’re just finishing up our first year of the showcase.”

Other than Chairman Robert Bender mentioning that Interim Visit Pensacola CEO Jack Brown’s work to change accounting and procurement, none of the commissioners seemed to be concerned with what Childers said she was doing on behalf of the board.

Very strange.  Childers must be very worried about being audited.