The appointment of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to the board of an Orlando banking company excited a lot of questions because a related company benefited from tax breaks pushed by Bush's administration.
While Bush was governor, his office approved $3.1 million (2.1 million EUR) in state and local tax refunds to CNL Holdings, which is affiliated with CNL Bancshares Inc., the St. Petersburg Times reported Wednesday. The bank appointed Bush to its board last month.
The tax rebates were supposed to guarantee that the company would not leave the state and would create jobs in central Florida. They have resulted in $181,875 (123,556 EUR) being retuned to the company so far, the newspaper reported.
"It smacks of political payback," said Ben Wilcox, executive director of Florida Common Cause, a nonpartisan political watchdog group, of Bush's appointment to the board. Wilcox said the former governor, a Republican who left office in January, should have refused the appointment.
CNL Bancshares is part of a group of companies under the umbrella of CNL Financial Group Inc., a diversified $20 billion (13.59 billion EUR)-plus company that develops real estate and owns hotels and restaurants.
James Seneff controls several CNL-affiliated companies, including CNL Holdings, which won approval in 2003 for tax breaks as an incentive to expand its headquarters in Orlando.
In exchange for potential refunds on sales, use, corporate income, intangible property and emergency excise taxes, CNL promised to create 418 jobs with an average wage of $62,000 (42,119 EUR), the Times reported. The agreement required 331 of those jobs to be created by the end of this year, but it's not clear whether it has met that goal.
CNL officials did not respond to e-mails sent by The Associated Press on Wednesday. A spokeswoman for Bush told the newspaper that he would not comment.