Published: Apr 29, 2014 6:01 PM EDT
Updated: Apr 29, 2014 6:57 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla. - It's your money and you're paying for high priced dinners, trips to the zoo and luxury suites at baseball games. The promise is, it's all in the name of economic development. But are you getting what you pay for?

Dan Krassner, with the government watchdog Integrity Florida, says no.

"How many Florida business people and entrepreneurs is Enterprise Florida helping at Yankees Stadium," Krassner asks.

WINK News dug through several months of receipts and found Enterprise Florida, the state's somewhat privatized commerce department, has been living it up on your dime. Nearly $22,000 was spent at Yankees stadium, more than $13,000 spent at the San Diego Zoo and $4,000 was spent on limousine services.

Enterprise Florida staffers and their guests also eat well. $3,000 was spent at Truluck's Seafood, Steak and Crab House in Austin, TX and another two thousand at 4 Rivers Smokehouse.

Though it's classified as a public-private partnership charged with bringing jobs to Florida, in all reality, 97% of Enterprise Florida's funding comes from state taxpayers.
"Enterprise Florida is one of the most wasteful and secretive parts of state government," said Krassner.

Enterprise Florida declined our request for an interview but in a series of statements it defends the money spent at Yankees Stadium and the San Diego Zoo, among others, as networking opportunities with CEOs and Site Selectors.      

So how many jobs did your "networking" dollars buy?

Officials would not say if any jobs came to Florida as a result of the high priced meetings. A spokeswoman did say that relationships with site selectors are important. Including Enterprise Florida's relationship with the site selector from Hertz that helped bring the Fortune 500 company and at least a thousand jobs to town.

So is this wasteful spending or a wise investment? When WINK News spoke to taxpayers, opinions were mixed.

"It's ridiculous, ridiculous," said Phyllis Bonfield of Bonita Springs.

"If we spent 50 grand and we got Hertz to move here, then yeah it was worth it. I don't consider it wasteful if they got results. Wasteful is spending without results," said Bill Weidert of Fort Myers.

Enterprise Florida says it is committed to transparency. But unlike other state agencies, it does not publish its spending or vendor contracts online.

Last month, the State Senate unanimously passed a bill that would put better oversight on organizations like Enterprise Florida that spend millions of taxpayer dollars. That bill is still making its way through the House.