Florida CFO Sink Intercedes for Local Businessman with BP

June 17, 2010

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink was in the middle of a dramatic confrontation at a BP oil spill claims office Tuesday after going to bat for a distraught owner of a bait and tackle shop.

Sink, who is a Democratic candidate for governor, invited the news media to join her and Tommy Holmes, owner of Outcast Bait and Tackle of Pensacola, at the claims office run by a BP subcontractor.

“I’m shaking mad,” Holmes told Kile Anderson, who is in charge of the office operated by subcontractor Worley Catastrophe Response. “I’m living on credit cards.”

Holmes said his business, which sells everything from clothing to boating equipment and also organizes fishing tournaments, was off by 50 percent in May because BP’s crude oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has driven anglers away.

He sought $73,000 to make up for lost revenue but said BP offered to pay just $17,293 — only enough to cover lost profit.

That won’t pay his nine employees, the bills he owes suppliers for unsold inventory and taxes, Holmes said.

“Your group is stringing us along with shut-up money and I’m tired of shut-up money,” Holmes told Anderson. “If BP was so good at paying their claims they wouldn’t have to spend $50 million telling people how good they were.”

He was referring to a BP advertising campaign apologizing for the spill and saying the company would do all it could to compensate the people it had harmed.

Holmes vented his anger as he, Sink and Anderson stood at the front of the converted storefront in a strip mall dodging other claimants, reporters and television cameras.

“He’s already technically bankrupt,” Sink told Anderson before asking him for a response.

Anderson, who lives in Dallas, calmly said he’d already asked accountants for Holmes and BP to get together and explain their differences but he had not yet heard back from them.

Holmes, who also has hired a law firm, praised Sink for helping secure an audience with Anderson, but left just as angry as he had come in.

“I’ll be just as nice as you’ll let me be,” he said, “or as mean as you’ll require me to be.”

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