Florida Politics by Ana Ceballos
July 3, 2019
When Florida Cabinet members jetted off to Israel in late May, some state employees who traveled at taxpayer expense stayed in a more than $400-a-night luxury hotel in Jerusalem, where a Cabinet meeting was held.
More than a month after the trade mission ended, the full cost of the trip, proposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, is not clear.
The Governor’s Office has not released expense records from the weeklong trip. And Enterprise Florida, an economic-development agency that receives state and private money and helped plan the trip, said on its website that “total mission expenses are compiled approximately 45-60 days” after the trip ends, suggesting it could still be about a month before a total tally will be made public.
But records obtained by The News Service of Florida detailing travel expenses of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Cabinet staff members show taxpayers footed the bill for nearly $30,000 in hotel rooms, airfare, “registration” fees for Enterprise Florida, baggage fees and per-diem costs, which can include meals. That total covered expenses for Fried, three of her staff members, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis’ chief of staff and Attorney General Ashley Moody’s general counsel.
Records show Fried and the five staff members spent $15,663 for hotel rooms, which included nights at the David Citadel Hotel, a luxury five-star hotel in Jerusalem that charges $425 a night with the promise of a “majestic Jerusalem experience facing the Old City wall.”