TAMPA, Florida -- A Department of Justice audit of Tampa's security grant spending during the 2012 Republican National Convention indicated the city charged the federal government nearly a million dollars too much for security at the four-day event.
The audit also indicated Mayor Bob Buckhorn was inappropriately utilizing his city vehicle, purchased with RNC grant money, and designated for "criminal justice purposes" only.
Federal law allocates nearly $50 million in security grants for each party's national convention. The Tampa effort, coordinated by the Tampa Police Department (TPD), spent $48.5 million of the money on personnel, contractors, supplies, and equipment.
But the DOJ found $903,923 in overcharges, which were returned to the federal government last August. It also found $25,192 in "unsupported overtime, salary, or fringe benefit costs" it required the city to provide further documentation of.
The mayor's black Chevy Suburban SUV, among the 47 the city purchased with $1.2 million in federal funds, was also spotlighted in the audit. The DOJ wrote:
"Although the Financial Guide is silent on the definition of the term 'criminal justice purpose,' in our judgment the term does not include the use and transportation of non-law enforcement or public safety personnel."
A spokesperson for Mayor Bob Buckhorn deferred questions to a Tampa Police Department spokesperson, who said the vehicle was designated for "dignitary protection," including the mayor. And even though Buckhorn sometimes drives the vehicle himself, TPD considers his around-the-clock protection a "criminal justice purpose," and will clarify its interdepartmental procedures to eliminate any DOJ concerns.
The City of Charlotte was also audited for its use of federal security funds at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, where a pair of vehicles were apparently inappropriately modified.