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Friday, Aug 17, 2018
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Safety had a price tag at RNC in Tampa

TALLAHASSEE — Safeguarding visiting dignitaries at last summer’s Republican National Convention contributed to a 44 percent increase in the state’s costs for watching over out-of-state VIPS, according to a report released Monday.

The amount to transport and protect all dignitaries was around $425,000 last fiscal year, up from $295,000 in 2011-12. The same cost was about $358,000 in 2010-11.

The total cost for last year, including Gov. Rick Scott’s protective detail, was more than $2.6 million.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement provides the protection and is responsible for the yearly report. The totals include agents’ salaries, overtime, cost of transportation and related expenses.

Of the past year’s figures, about $282,000 was attributed to guarding other states’ governors and their families who were in Tampa for the August convention, records show.

Without that added amount, the yearly cost to protect out-of-state officials would have continued a downward trend.

The two officials who cost the most to protect at the RNC were South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his family, at roughly $17,500 and $16,300, respectively.

The cost of transporting and protecting Scott, first lady Ann Scott and their family, including guarding the Governor’s Mansion, increased slightly in comparison, to $2.22 million last year from $2.19 million the year before.

Costs specifically related to Ann Scott grew to $225,000 last year from $155,000 the year before – a 45 percent increase.

“Protective operations are not a cookie-cutter process,” said FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger.

Plessinger also said that Florida has reciprocal agreements with some states for the protection of their governors when they visit here.

“Other states use their own security and FDLE supplements as needed,” she said. “Similarly, when we visit other states, we use our security personnel, as well as receive assistance from law enforcement from the host state.”

President Barack Obama’s trip to Florida for campaign rallies last September cost the state $1,400. The U.S. Secret Service guards the president at home and abroad.

A visit that same month from John Percy de Jongh Jr., governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, cost nearly $17,000, the report shows.

That visit was classified as “personal.” But an “official” visit by de Jongh earlier in September cost just $4,600.

He officially visited this March at a cost to taxpayers of $1,300, then returned in June for another official trip that cost $1,200, according to the report.

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