Critics say the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has been using hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to persuade area residents to vote higher taxes on themselves — a possible violation of state law.
The transit authority has been engaged in a public education campaign called Greenlight Pinellas, in advance of a November ballot referendum that will ask voters to approve a sales tax increase.
On Tuesday, state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, called for an investigation.
In a Tuesday letter directed to Ananth Prasad, secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation, Brandes wrote, “Specifically, I ask that the Inspector General review the expenditure by the PSTA of approximately $800,000 for promotions of this (Greenlight Pinellas) campaign to determine if the expenditure constitutes a violation of state law.”
As a government entity, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is barred from using taxpayer money to engage in political advocacy leading up to a referendum vote. If the authority is found in violation of state law, Brandes told Watchdog.org in a phone interview he wants the money refunded immediately, along with a public apology.
Bob Lasher, PSTA’s external affairs officer, said the transit authority hasn’t committed any wrongdoing.