End-of-the-Year Money Time Miller Doles out Project Grants
Salzer, James, The Florida Times Union
ATLANTA -- Gov. Zell Miller doled out dozens of grants to local
governments, Girl Scouts, police departments, churches and
fishing tournaments during the past few months as the state
fiscal budget year ended, often at the request of friendly
The grants were part of the governor's annual "discretionary
fund" distribution of millions of dollars that some lawmakers
say is ripe for political favoritism.
"It is a vestige of political patronage to help legislators
out," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Clay, R-Marietta, who
acknowledges his county has benefited from the grants in the
"It gives the governor a heck of a bargaining tool."
The governor's chief of staff, Steve Wrigley, who reviews the
requests, said, "I don't think you have to be a friend of Zell
to get one. Clearly it helps if you're supportive of the
"But there are legislators who aren't always supportive of Zell
who get funding."
The amount of the grants increased last year, from $2.9 million
in fiscal 1996 to $4 million in fiscal 1997, which ended June
Records indicate they are generally sent out in three waves --
in fall, around the first of the year, and in spring, from April
Dozens of programs were funded as the fiscal year was about to
For instance, two weeks before the fiscal year ended, Baldwin
County tourism officials received $10,000 to help pay expenses
in connection with the B.A.S.S. Top 100 Tournament held in March
on Lake Sinclair.
Records show Randy Cardoza, state commissioner of Industry,
Trade and Tourism, wrote the governor's office a memo opposing
"They [Baldwin officials] entered into the event on their own
and unfortunately, it didn't work out well," Cardoza wrote. "It
could set a precedent for any failed venture to ask for state
Officials in South Georgia's Berrien County received four
grants totaling more than $35,000 this spring to help repair a
gym, assist a 4-H program and provide recreational facilities
Bibb County officials got $2,000 to help finance an economic
impact study for the Macon Cherry Blossom Festival "so as to
better solicit contributions and financial support."
The governor contributed $15,000 to restore stained-glass
windows at the historic St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Brunswick at
the request of local lawmakers. …