Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cut Flower Commission & TaxPayer Money

Hot off the press regarding California's Cut Flower Commission and use of taxpayer money. Source is cited at the bottom: 
On The Money: Cut Flowers
Its a business with a more than $10 billion dollar impact on the state! 

Flowers, and many of the buds you buy are grown here in California. The largest growers actually have to pay the state to do business in the form of fees to an agency called the Cut Flower Commission. In fact, the commission runs of those fees, as well as federal grants paid by your income taxes.  Critics say Governor Schwarzenegger has told all state agencies to cut travel costs and since the commission is a state agency they, too, should watch what they're spending. 

So we wanted to know what the Cut Flower Commission spent on travel and found a lot of money spent on things that had nothing to do with flowers. 

Kasey Cronquist holds the title of Executive Director - and Ambassador - for the commission. While they have a Sacramento address, Cronquist is based in Carpinteria, California. He spent thousands in travel last year, travelling all over the country, from Salt Lake City to Cleveland to Washington, D.C. He even made a trip to Bogota, Columbia. 

Nearly every time he's come to Sacramento, he's stayed right across the street from the capitol at the Hyatt, spending upwards of $120 or more a night. 

Nearly every time he leaves town Kronquist stays at expensive hotels like a Radisson or the Fairmont in Washington, D.C. He's paid $7.00 per bottle for water; charged up to $60 for laundry; ordered room service nearly every time he stays in a hotel; hit the mini bar; and charged hundreds of dollars for fancy dinners every time he's out of town. 

They seem to be wasting fee payers revenue, says Jon Coupal, president of the watchdog group the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. He says they're spending money every trip for things that are quite purely fluff. 

Coupal says at a time when state agencies are being asked to make cuts, the commission is spending too much. 

Whether its a non-profit or a government entity people need to understand they have a fiduciary obligation to the people who pay the bills, says Coupal. 

Kasey Cronquist refused to speak about his expenses on-camera, but told CBS-13s Sam Shane that he believes all the expenses are acceptable. He sent us this statement: 

...room service meals and the occasional snack or bottle of water from the mini-bar are expenses that I'm confident any frequent business traveler would find reasonable. 

He also adds that "We are passionate about what we do and all our travel takes place to help ensure a positive business environment for our growers to thrive." 

But critics like Jon Coupal say it doesn't take cross-country travel for the flower business to grow. There's still no concerted effort to look at the expenditure side, says Coupal, and see if Californians are getting the best value for their dollar and quite frankly, they're not!
Source: CBS13

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