Florida State Fair director suddenly resigns after corruption investigation

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The longtime executive director of the Florida State Fair has resigned following the release of a Department of Agriculture inspector general’s report. The report was triggered by a whistle blower complaint detailing self-dealing, conflict of interest business deals and unreported gifts from vendors.

Charles Pesano, who has been in charge of the fair for 11 years, resigned after the IG report was finalized Feb. 25 without mentioning the report. Read his resignation letter.

The report concludes that among other things Pesano “receive a personal hot tub valued at $3,846.65 at his private residence from Spa Manufacturers, an exclusive business partner of the FSFA.”

“No, that is actually not a fact. That was not a gift, and that is all I can say to you. That report is not factual,” Pesano’s wife and business partner Phala said Wednesday.

Pesano claimed the hot tub was a barter deal in which he gave the hot tub company an “open tab” of candles at his family candle shop in Ybor City, Seventh Avenue Apothecary.

There were also findings that Pesano pressured fair employees at Cracker Country to purchase candles from his family’s candle business and used his position to market candles to others doing business with the fair authority. “I can’t say any more. There’s no more comments, no more comments,”  Phala Pesano said before slamming and locking the door of the family candle shop. She claimed Charles Pesano was away on business and insisted the family was consulting an attorney to refute false allegations sustained in the 33-page IG report.

The IG investigators also found that Pesano received $823 gifts of food and baseball tickets from Centerplate, a vendor of the Rays baseball team and had fair employees make signs for his candle shop.

The FSFA has a strict ethics code that prohibits the kind of behavior and activities Pesano was engaged in, according to the IG report.

Pesano told investigators, “I’m just saying that in the totality of things that is small things, but I admit, I should have done a better job.”

Pesano went on to say, “I hope I get the opportunity to continue because I can definitely make arrangements and changes to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.”

Pesano resigned two days after the IG quietly released its report, saying in his resignation letter that he had reached a “crossroads” in his career but making no mention of the state investigation.

Hillsborough prosecutors are now reviewing the case to determine whether any of Pesano’s actions constitute a crime.Read the report here.THE STORIES OTHERS ARE CLICKING ON: 

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