Ex-Florida Official Cleared of Charges in Controversial Space Tourism Case

A former Florida state official has bee cleared of charges that he improperly used his influence to award a controversial grant for a space tourism training center that he subsequently headed up. PNJ.com reports:

An administrative law judge dismissed charges alleging Brice Harris used his position at the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development to secure $500,000 grant for Andrews [Institute], and then took a $150,000-a-year job at the sports medicine clinic.

Judge Diane Cleavinger said there was not enough evidence to prove that Harris’ employment with Andrews violated ethics laws because his employment with OTTED did not substantially or significantly contribute to the funding or creation of Project Odyssey.

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Controversial Andrews Institute CIO Resigns

Controversial Joe Story quits Andrews Institute
Pensacola News Journal

Dr. Joe Story, one of the driving forces behind Baptist Health Care’s $40 million Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, has resigned….

The Institute — and Story himself — also came under controversy over Project Odyssey, a space tourism program funded by state grant money.

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Ethics Complaint Filed in Florida Space Tourism Case

More developments from Florida, courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel:

A man who filed an ethics complaint over Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp’s frequent use of state planes has lodged another one against the former staffer in Gov. Charlie Crist’s office who helped dole out $500,000 in state funds to a sports medicine clinic for a “space tourist” program, then left to take a $150,000 job running the program.

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Why Was Ethics Probe Dropped in Florida Space Tourism Fiasco?

Ethics Probe Lost in Space
Pensacola News Journal Editorial

Last week, Pensacolian Brice Harris abruptly resigned as director of Project Odyssey, a space-tourism program run out of Gulf Breeze’s Andrews Institute. In a report released April 7, the governor’s own inspector general concluded that Harris was heavily involved in setting up the project while still with the state’s economic development department. Then — surprise! — he became the project’s director at a cool $150,000 annually. Good work, if you can get it, but apparently an ethical no-no.

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Space Tourism Whiz Kid Brought Down By Incriminating Emails

Mark O’Brien: E-mails undo whiz kid’s rise at Andrews
PNJ.com

No savvy government employee would write anything incriminating in an e-mail. He would know that government e-mail is open to the public, thanks to Florida’s public records law, and he would know that e-mails never die, thanks to technology.

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Crist Nixes Ethics Probe in Space Tourism Fiasco

The Orlando Sentinel reports:

Gov. Charlie Crist decided today not to ask the Florida Ethics Commission to rule on whether a former employee within his office broke the law by setting up a $500,000 grant for a Panhandle “space tourist” business and then taking a job overseeing the program. “Gov. Crist has reviewed the Inspector General investigation regarding Mr. Bryce Harris (sic) and in light of his recent resignation from the Andrews Institute we will not be making a referral to the Ethics Commission,” Crist spokesman Sterling Ivey said in a statement.

There was no reason given. Updates as they become available.

Florida May Ask for Its Money Back on Space Tourism Project

Space tourism probe: State may try to get grant money back
Orlando Sentinel

A key legislator said Wednesday that Florida could attempt to recover grant money given to a Panhandle orthopedic clinic to launch a “space tourism” center, even as the clinic announced the resignation of a former employee who shepherded the grant.

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Head of Andrews Institute Space Tourism Program Resigns

Embattled head of space-tourism venture Odyssey resigns
Tallahassee.com

The head of the Andrews Institute’s space-tourism program resigned Tuesday to prepare his defense against an accusation that he used his job in the Florida’s tourism and trade office to launch a new mission at more than double his state salary.

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Crist Seeks Ethics Probe of Space Tourism Deal

Commission may probe aerospace chief
Florida Today

Gov. Charlie Crist wants an Ethics Commission inquiry into a former high-level tourism official’s involvement in state funding for a “space tourism” program in which he took a six-figure job.

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Investigation: Space Florida Ineffective, Pissing Off Commercial Partners

On the heels of a critical legislative audit questioning its effectiveness, embattled Space Florida has been hit again with an investigation by the Orlando Sentinel that has revealed some not-very-complimentary facts about the agency chartered to promote the state’s aerospace interests.

The results are not pretty. Documents indicate that the agency is a sleazy, ineffective organization that has done little to attract jobs and investment while alienating some of the very companies it is designed to help.

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Florida Governor Orders Probe of Questionable Space Tourism Training Deal

Andrews project probed: Crist seeks inquiry into Project Odyssey director at institute
Pensacola News Journal

Gov. Charlie Crist has asked for an inspector general’s inquiry to see if the director of a new space-tourism medical program at the Andrews Institute got his job after setting up the $500,000 in state grants to create it.

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Report: Florida State Official Took Lucrative Job After Setting Up Space Tourism Training Effort

Space-tourism deal spurs state investigation
Orlando Sentinel

Last year, Brice Harris, an employee in Gov. Charlie Crist’s tourism and economic-development office, shepherded a deal to give a Panhandle sports-medicine clinic a $500,000 contract to train tourists for the rigors of spaceflight.

E-mails and other documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel show he was involved even in the minutiae of the negotiations, down to the design of the logos and shoulder patches the would-be space tourists would wear.

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