Greer Goes Down: Ex-GOP Chairman Arrested, Charged
Around the State
At a news conference in Orlando, state prosecutor William Shepherd alleged that proceeds from the shell company were "used by Mr. Greer to support his own personal lifestyle."
Shepherd said Greer used Victory Strategies to funnel money from the state Republican Party and to hide his own involvement in using party money.
Greer, who could face up to 75 years in prison, was booked into the Seminole County Jail, said Gerald Bailey, commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
When FDLE agents arrived at his suburban Orlando home Wednesday morning, Greer reportedly was shaving and had cut his upper lip. An apparent cut is visible in his booking mugshot.
Greer's sideline contract with Victory Strategies reportedly paid him and former executive director Delmar Johnson about $200,000.
Shepherd said Greer sent e-mails directing additional party funds to Victory Strategies, "per the chairman."
Greer's successor as chairman, state Sen. John Thrasher, R-Jacksonville, announced previously that the party may have been the victim of illegal activity after an audit discovered Greer and Johnson's role in the corporation.
Thrasher reported the findings to the attorney general's office, which referred the case to FDLE.
Gov. Charlie Crist's hand-picked party boss, who resigned last January under a cloud of controversy involving extravagant spending, and Johnson blew through more than $1 million on RPOF credit charges last year.
Upon completion of the internal audit of party finances this spring, Thrasher declared that Greer had ``grossly interfered with the activities of the Republican Party."
The state party said in March that its audit showed Victory Strategies took 10 percent of money raised by the GOP.
Some of Greer's spending binges were closely linked to Crist, his longtime pal.
In January 2009, during a gala for his re-election as RPOF chairman, Greer and Johnson charged a $26,000 stay at Orlando's Rosen Shingle Creek resort to the RPOF credit card.
The invoice included charges for Crist's presidential suite at the upscale resort, VIP valet parking, restaurants, mini-bar tabs, in-room movies, meals and other rooms.
And after cutting up what he said was his own Party American Express card to appease critics calling for an audit of RPOF records, Greer used Johnson’s Party-issued Amex as if it were his own to pay for his travel and trips taken by Crist campaign staffers and some state legislators, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Another Crist connection involved Jay Burmer, who was paid $316,000 by the RPOF for 2 1/2 years of vaguely defined party work.
Burmer, a friend of Crist's dating back to their days at Florida State University, received at least two previous state jobs when Crist was education commissioner and attorney general.
Greer's attorney, Damon Chase, told Sunshine State News that Burmer "did not work closely with the chairman (Greer)." As for Burmer's hiring by the RPOF, Chase told the St. Petersburg Times: ``When the governor tells the chairman to hire Burmer as a consultant for $10,000 a month, the chairman signs the contract."
Chase suggested that Crist asked his client to put Burmer on the payroll as a personal adviser, according to the Times. The co-mingling of funds and duties was among the subjects of the state and federal investigations of party finances.
After resigning, Greer sued the party over failure to deliver a severance package.
Crist, who had also called for a federal investigation into the matter, termed Greer's arrest "obviously disappointing, and surprising."
Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman said Greer leaves a tawdry legacy at the RPOF.
"While Greer was Gov. Charlie Crist's handpicked Republican chairman, Bill McCollum was Jim Greer's handpicked gubernatorial candidate," she said.
In a statement, McCollum said, “The alleged crimes committed by the defendant are precise examples of why the Statewide Grand Jury was convened to look into matters of corruption and help restore the public’s trust. My Office of Statewide Prosecution will prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law, and I am sure that justice will be served."
Reach Kenric Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 801-5341.