Turkey Day Bombshell: Haridopolos says he didn't tell 'whole story' re: Greer settlement

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Senate President Mike Haridopolos said in a deposition last week that he believed ousted Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer was pushed out for political reasons — not necessarily for the misuse of party funds, something RPOF officials had suggested was a major source of discontent, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.

Haridopolos answered questions last week in a lawsuit by Greer claiming party leaders broke a severance agreement with the chairman and owe him more than $123,000. The suit also asks for punitive damages of more than $5 million.

Under questioning from Damon Chase, a lawyer for Greer, Haridopolos also said he didn’t read the severance agreement that he and several other party leaders signed with Greer.

When Chase asked Haridopolos about a statement he and House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, issued praising some aspects of Greer’s leadership as the chairman exited, Haridopolos said that he “thought this whole problem was a political problem” and the party was trying to get rid of Greer.

“Jim Greer was incredibly unpopular,” Haridopolos said. “Most people viewed him as incredibly arrogant. We viewed him as a person who never raised money and always spent money. So, our goal was to have him leave the Party because you want — we wanted a new Chairman who would do a better job and get the base excited again as opposed to — clearly the base was dissatisfied with his performance.”

Haridopolos speaks several times during the deposition about discontent with Greer’s fundraising progress.

But the comment about the politics seems to dovetail with one of Greer’s main contentions in his lawsuit: That the party signed a severance agreement to get Greer to leave for political reasons, then tried to use the financial concerns to wriggle out of the terms.

In particular, Greer claims that GOP leaders knew before they signed the agreement that he was getting paid for fundraising activities through a company he set up known as Victory Strategies, LLC — then used a criminal investigation into the company as another reason to not pay Greer.

Greer, meanwhile, is under indictment and set to face trial next year in connection with the allegations surrounding his consulting company. Greer claims that the severance agreement freed him of any charges of criminal wrongdoing in relation to those charges.

Haridopolos also told Chase during the deposition that he didn’t read the agreement before signing it, trusting what party lawyer Jason Gonzalez told him about the contents. The Senate president said he didn’t know whether he had seen a previous copy of the agreement.

“I’m not a lawyer,” Haridopolos said. “So, I didn’t read the contract. I was sent that signatory page. It was represented to me that, if he had done nothing wrong, he would be given a severance contract, and I thought that was fair.”

Haridopolos also admitted to fudging a bit on an answer to a reporter about whether he had signed such an agreement as questions were asked last year about whether there was one. “I’ve not seen any agreements,” he told Miami Herald reporter Marc Caputo in 2010.

Asked by Greer’s lawyer whether that statement was false, Haridopolos replied: “I believe what I told him was not the whole story, yeah.” Haridopolos said he thought the agreement was supposed to be kept confidential.

Chase’s questions to Haridopolos about whether he read the agreement and whether he told Caputo the truth were asked under objection by Haridopolos’ lawyer.

In a court filing Tuesday, Chase added Haridopolos to the lawsuit because, Chase said, the Senate president did not try to enforce the severance agreement.

“He can get in line with everyone else that owes Jim Greer money,” Chase said.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.