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Business Observer Friday, Oct. 30, 2015 6 years ago

Tampa business leaders get testy

A strange war of words broke out this week between prominent cheerleaders for Tampa area businesses.

A strange war of words broke out this week between prominent cheerleaders for Tampa area businesses.

It started Oct. 26, when Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Rohrlack publicly ripped an unlikely target: Florida Gov. Rick Scott — an even more visible cheerleader for business interests.

Rohrlack's angst stems from Sam Rashid, a Tampa businessman and Republican activist whom Scott appointed to the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority Board in June 2014.
Rashid's term ended in controversy after he called a woman who had been awarded a public relations contract from a government office a “taxpayer subsidized slut.” Rashid apologized publicly for the comments. He resigned Oct. 9.

Rohrlack essentially tells Scott, in a public letter, that he blew it with Rashid. Rohrlack, an Enterprise Florida executive from 2003-2009, during the gubernatorial administrations of Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist, adds that Scott's next Hillsborough County Aviation Authority appointee will be a reflection on his leadership.

“Possibly unlike any appointment you will make, this next appointment is both an opportunity and your responsibility to make the right selection to advance the mission of Tampa International Airport,” writes Rohrlack, who never mentions Rashid's name specifically in the missive. “Your previous decision has given Tampa Bay a black eye and caused unnecessary controversy in our community.”

The day after Rohrlack's letter went public there was a second letter to Scott. This one came from chamber board Chairman Ronald Christaldi, who scolded Rohrlack — not Scott — for writing a letter that in “tone, choice of words and content” was inappropriate and unsanctioned.

Christaldi, an attorney, wrote that he and other chamber board members asked Rohrlack to write a letter to Scott about the sense of urgency behind the aviation board appointment. But Christaldi says he didn't know the specific content until he got the letter, the same day Scott received it.

“I apologize for Mr. Rohrlack's mistake in sending that letter,” Christaldi writes. “Having spoken with Mr. Rohrlack, I can assure you that it was never his intent to impugn you or your unwavering support for our business community.”

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