Pinellas County, Florida-- The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) is under fire as a powerful state senator is calling for an investigation of the agency for violating state law.
You may recall when 10 Investigates discovered allegations PSTA was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars pushing for a transportation plan called Greenlight Pinellas. If those allegations are true, the agency could be in big trouble.
State Law strictly prohibits a public agency from using your money to advocate for or against a position that voters will decide on. However, Sen.Jeff Brandes (R- St. Petersburg) says in a letter to the Florida Department of Transportation he wants the Inspector General to investigate how $800,000 earmarked for Greenlight Pinellas have been spent by PSTA.
PSTA says it is just doing an education campaign with brochures and trinkets to explain what a light rail system and increased bus service will do for Pinellas County. However, during a public meeting, PSTA head Brad Miller was asked if the material also explains consequences of the plan- like the one-cent sales tax- and he said it does not.
Miller told 10 Investigates it's not the agency's job to say negative things in the so-called educational campaign.
In reaction to Sen. Brandes' call for an investigation, PSTA says it is conducting its educational campaign with full transparency and in full compliance with the law.
Critics of the public money being used for the campaign are delighted the letter has been sent, some say they are also concerned because the head of the Florida Department of Transportation supports light rail and they are skeptical his agency will come down on PSTA.