Florida Republican leaders Friday removed the last ties ousted former chairman Jim Greer held to the party, stripping him of his position on the state executive board and his post as Seminole County state committeeman.
The move was approved by the 37-member party executive board, which huddled behind closed doors Friday at a downtown Tallahassee hotel. Greer’s successor, Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, called the meeting to update members on a range of events including audits of party finances and a lawsuit filed by Greer against the party over a disputed severance package.
Greer did not attend the session.
“I think people are just interested in how we’re dealing with it,” Thrasher said. “Beyond that, people are just get excited about the upcoming races.”
Still, the lingering effects of the Greer era were expected to play a central role in Friday’s meeting. Members were given copies of credit-card statements reflecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in party expenses rung-up during Greer’s three-year chairmanship by him, former executive director Delmar Johnson, and top legislators, including House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon, former House Speaker and U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio, and disgraced ex-speaker Ray Sansom.
“It doesn’t reflect on us in an ethical sense,” said Sid Dinerstein, the Palm Beach County Republican chairman. “We all accept the fact that we had really bad leadership that was very irresponsible and somewhat narcissistic.”
Dinerstein said he planned to make a motion at Friday’s meeting that the credit-card statements be made public. The session Friday is the first time most members of the executive board are getting a chance to see the statements, which were contained in three large boxes brought in about an hour into the meeting.
“How can you be a chairman when you’re on an airplane every single day?” Dinerstein said of Greer’s spending. He also pointed out that Greer “wasn’t one of us,” having been positioned as the state party leader by Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who he served as a Central Florida fundraiser during the 2006 governor’s race.
Although not listed as an agenda item on Friday’s meeting, Crist’s future within the party is clearly a subtext. Crist, derided by most party leaders since his veto of teacher merit-pay legislation sought by top state Republicans, has until next Friday to declare whether he will continue in his U.S. Senate race as a non-party candidate, dropping his long ties with the GOP.
Thrasher also confirmed that former Gov. Jeb Bush, a leading advocate of the merit-pay measure, will speak at a May 7 Pasco County Republican Party event, a rare grassroots move by the ex-leader and one that could further expand Crist’s distance from the party establishment.
“Elvis is coming,” Thrasher said.