“Emeril’s Florida” aired on The Cooking Channel and featured the chef visiting some of Florida’s top restaurants. Visit Florida paid at least $10 million over a five-year period for the show.
By Gary Fineout, The Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE — A television show hosted by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse is at the center of a brewing court battle pitting the Florida House against the producer behind the cooking show.
The Republican-controlled House wants years of records detailing how the show spent millions of dollars paid out by the state’s tourism agency and how much was paid directly to Lagasse, who is a resident of South Walton.
Tallahassee television producer Pat Roberts and his company MAT Media sued the House on Friday, contending that the records sought by the House include trade secrets and confidential business information. Attorneys for Roberts are asking a judge to block a subpoena issued by the House for the records.
Tim Jansen, one of the attorneys, blasted House Speaker Richard Corcoran for the subpoena.
“One politician in his drive for publicity, power and higher office has trampled over the rights of private businesses and individuals that properly contracted services with a quasi-state agency,” Jansen said.
The show called “Emeril’s Florida” aired on The Cooking Channel and featured the chef touring the state and visiting some of Florida’s top restaurants. Visit Florida paid at least $10 million over a five-year period for the show.
Visit Florida, which relies primarily on state funding, has made public the contract it has with MAT Media, but the House wants a long list of other records, including contracts the production company had with cable networks as well as federal tax returns. The House, which asked the company and Roberts to hand over the information voluntarily, also wants an accounting of how much money Roberts was paid directly for producing the show. A House panel approved the subpoena last month and has demanded that Roberts turn over the information by next Monday.
Corcoran, who is widely expected to run for governor next year, defended the subpoena as a “completely reasonable request from the people responsible for guarding taxpayer money.
“If he has nothing to hide, he should have cooperated,” said Corcoran in a statement. “Instead of cooperating, he’s hired high-priced lawyers to shield himself from the taxpayers and avoid telling the truth … If it’s a fight he wants then it’s a fight he’ll get. We will win.”
Visit Florida came under fire last year for a secret contract in which it agreed to pay $1 million to rapper Pitbull. Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Christian Perez, disclosed the contract after Corcoran and the House sued to make it public.
Corcoran initially pushed to slash funding to Visit Florida, but relented after a highly contentious battle with Gov. Rick Scott, who argued cuts to the agency would harm the state’s economy.
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