Florida Governor calls for head of Visit Florida to step down

Florida Governor Rick Scott (L) is calling on the president and CEO of Visit Florida Will Seccombe (R) to step down in the wake of a public records request involving entertainer Pitbull (C).

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP)-- There are reports people are losing jobs at Visit Florida in the wake of a public records dispute involving rapper Pitbull.

Our Tallahassee Bureau Chief Mike Vasilinda tells us two people have been fired at Visit Florida in the wake of the Pitbull contact controversy.

A rep from Visit Florida has confirmed Chief Financial Officer Vangie Fields and Chief Marketing Officer Paul Phipps have both been fired. Both were intimately involved with the Pitbull contract that required confidentiality.

If Florida Governor Rick Scott has his way, the head of Visit Florida may soon be out of a job as well.

In a letter dated Dec. 16, 2016 from Florida Governor Rick Scott to William Talbert, the Chairman of the Visit Florida Board Directors, Scott calls for increased transparency in the agency's record keeping. He also calls for Visit Florida President and CEO Will Seccombe to step down.

Seccombe is reportedly negotiating his exit with the Visit Florida Board of Directors, which next meets January 9, 2017.

The letter comes in the days following efforts by the Speaker of the Florida House Richard Corcoran to find out how much Visit Florida paid Miami-based rapper/entertainer Pitbull, real name Armando Christian Perez, for his promotion of tourism in the state from July 2015 to June 2016.

Last week, a lawyer from Pitbull's production company, PDR productions, initially balked at releasing the contract. Attorney Leslie José Zigel told the House in a letter Dec. 9 that the contract was a "trade secret" and that anyone who disclosed its value would be liable.

Visit Florida operations are paid for with tax dollars, which make any contracts the agency enters into public record under Florida's Sunshine Law.

Corcoran filed suit Tuesday and on Thursday, Pitbull released the contract, valued at $1 million, himself via Dropbox link in a Tweet entitled "*FULL DISCLOSURE FLORIDA*"

"It's been an honor to represent Miami and the Sunshine State," the rapper wrote Thursday morning, "I've taken Miami and Florida worldwide -- WAY before any contract, and will do so way after. I love my home state. When asked to take on a New Year's show, I INSISTED it be live from Florida. #LOVEFL Since birth.....and till the day I die. Dale!"

The last word of the message, Dale, is Spanish for "give it" or "go ahead."

"The notion that Visit Florida spending would not be transparent to the taxpayers is just ridiculous," Scott wrote in the letter, "We must have major reforms at Visit Florida in the weeks ahead that require new leadership."

Among the changes Scott wants to see are:
--Publish online external reports detailing public spending
--Publish all reports that include metrics and return on investment calculations
--Publish employee position and salary information
--Publish and online organizational chart
--Publish all relevant audits, tax returns, financial reports and summaries
--Publish all statutory required reports
--Publish all public expenditure details by vendor and contract with all contracts provided online.

"The mission of Visit Florida is crucial to the economic growth of our state and Will Seccombe has played a major role for many years in helping Florida attract record numbers of tourists," Scott wrote, "However, the major changes outlined above require new leadership and ideas at the agency, and I believe it would be best for the future efforts of Visit Florida for Will to step down and allow new leadership to come in at this time."

"Lastly, I appreciate Pitbull and his devotion to our great state," Scott writes, " HIs willingness to help promote tourism in Florida is a great example for other entertainers to follow."

An email to Visit Florida for a response from Seccombe to Scott's letter wasn't immediately returned.