FORT MYERS, FL--It's your money and Lee County tax payers could be on the hook to pay back a big mistake. Earlier this week the judge ruled commissioners illegally used tourist tax dollars to pay lobbyists in Washington D.C.
Now, Lee County Commissioners have to figure out if your tax dollars will be used to pay back the hundreds of thousands of dollars already spent.
A final ruling in a battle that has been going on for nearly 18 months. On Tuesday, Circuit Judge Frederick Hardt ruled that Lee County Commissioners broke the law when they allowed the county to pay lobbyists in Washington D.C. with tourists tax dollars.
"When this is all said and done I think that we have all got the message loud and clear that we have to start following policies and procedures correctly," said Lee Count Commissioner Larry Kiker
The contracts with two different firms to lobby for shoreline preservation and environmental projects were signed back in 2009.
One of the firms had a monthly retainer fee of a little more than $10,000.
In August of 2011 the acting clerk of courts, Charlie Green, refused to issue any more checks to the lobbying firms until a judge ruled if it was legal or not.
Tax payers we spoke with were furious to hear the county may have to pay back the hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Lee County Visitors and Convention Bureau using your tax dollars.
They are meant to bring people down here, not fiddle around in Washington with stuff," said one resident.
If the county has to dip in to the general fund to pay back the money, commissioner Kiker says it will have a huge impact and take money the county doesn't have
"I was wrong when I predicted that we were going to be running out of money next year. I think it will be this year," said Kiker.