An independent group said Thursday that it will withhold $50 billion in federal funds over the next decade over allegations that the department failed to disclose potential conflicts of interest among its top officials.
The group, the Public Interest Legal Foundation, said in a statement that the federal government had failed to make adequate assurances to the public about the financial condition of Florida State University, where President Donna Shalala and Vice President Joe Biden are also alumni.
The money was part of the federal Recovery Act that was passed by Congress in 2010.
The federal government must continue to provide the state with federal aid until it can provide adequate assurances about the state’s financial health, according to the Public Service Commission, which oversees the federal agency.
A spokeswoman for Shalala did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Florida is in the midst of a severe drought that is threatening the state economy and its ability to provide needed water and wastewater services to residents and businesses.
The state has been in a prolonged economic crisis and the governor has announced that she will seek a second term in the fall.
But the president of the University of Miami has been critical of Shalala, saying in an interview with The Associated Press last month that she was “a disaster for the university and for the country.”
Shalala has said she will continue to speak out about the university’s handling of the drought.
The Public Interest Law Foundation said it is “unable to independently confirm the exact details” of the case, and would like to reach out to Shalala directly, but had no immediate plans to do so.
A group of lawmakers from both parties have called for the release of documents in the case.
State Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said the federal aid would be a “massive blow to the state.”
The president of Florida, Donna Shalal, has said in an appearance on MSNBC that she is ‘a disaster’ for the state.
Shalala announced in May that she would not seek re-election in 2018, citing her “difficult decision” to step down from the presidency.
In a statement after the Public Services Commission’s ruling, Shalala said she is grateful for the work of the commission.
She said it had made the decision “to provide an additional $10 billion to the Florida State and the university community in a time of crisis.”