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Civil War Escalates in|Florida Republican Party

TALLAHASSEE (CN) - The former head of the Florida Republican Party, who has been charged with grand theft, claims his successor and the party welshed on a promise of a lucrative consulting job, then made up a series of lies to try to weasel out of the deal after he refused to take $200,000 in "hush money."

James Greer sued the Republican Party of Florida and John Thrasher for breach of contract, in Seminole County Court.

The Orlando Sentinel, which has been following the long, tangled tale, reported this month that Greer originally sued the party on April 1, 2010, demanding the $123,000 in severance payments he says he was promised.

"The suit died, however, because he refused to answer questions under oath. By then, he had been indicted by a grand jury, which charged him with six crimes, four of them grand theft," according to the Sentinel's Oct. 7 article.

The Sentinel report backed up Greer's claim that the party changed its story, at first denying that it had made any agreement with Greer at all, but "then admitted, yes, there was one but said it hadn't been properly executed. They then argued they didn't have to pay because Greer was a liar and thief."

The party claims that Greer set up a shell company, Victory Strategies, LLC, and used it to "to funnel $125,000 in party funds into his accounts," according to the Sentinel report.

Here's the way Greer tells the story in his complaint.

Greer was elected state chairman in January 2007 and re-elected in 2009, with 77 percent of the vote. Thrasher is Greer's immediate predecessor and immediate successor in the job.

During the time at issue, Gov. Charlie Crist and former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio both sought the party's nomination to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Mel Martinez.

Greer supported Crist against the eventual winner of the November 2010 race, Rubio, a favorite of the Tea Party movement. Crist ended up running as an independent in what became a three-man race, in which Rubio trounced him and the Democratic candidate, Kendrick Meek.

In his complaint, Greer claims, "Mr. Rubio's supporters believed that the RPOG chairman should remain neutral, and then embarked on a vicious campaign of personal character assassination against Greer in an attempt to oust Greer as chairman, claiming among things that RPOF funds and credit cards had been used inappropriately."

Greer adds: "In an attempted to unite the RPOF and end the character assassination attacks, the RPOF and Greer entered into an 'Agreement, Mutual General Release and Confidentiality Agreement,' a copy of which is attached hereto to Exhibit 'A.'"

He says the agreement called for him to resign effective Feb. 20, 2010, in return for which the Republican Party of Florida (ROF) would pay him $11,250 a month "as a consultant/advisor" from March 1, 2010 until Jan. 31, 2011.

"The agreement provided that a five percent (5%) late fee be assessed each month that a payment was late," according to the complaint. Greer says the agreement also contained a general release of liability, and stated that "'all expense reimbursements of any kind, American Express account expenditures, consultant fees, fund-raising fees, agreements, service fees, traveling and dining expenses [during Greer's chairmanship] were proper and authorized and otherwise ratified by RPOF.'" (Brackets in complaint.)


The complaint adds: "In paragraph 9 of the agreement, Thrasher agreed that if he was elected chairman of the RPOF that he would re-execute the agreement on behalf of RPOF within twenty four (24) hours of his election and use his best efforts to effectuate the agreement. Thrasher was elected chairman, but rather than ratifying the agreement or using his best efforts to effectuate it, he refused to honor it and publicly repudiated it.

"On the morning of January 2, 2010, after all parties had signed the agreement, Jason Gonzalez, general counsel for RPOF, told Greer, 'I am putting this in my safe and it's never going to see the light of day.'"

Greer claims that Gonzalez later said publicly, 'As we have previously state, no agreement was fully executed. We haven't made any payments and we never will.'"

Greer claims that Gonzalez told him that the party and its leaders in the Legislature welshed on the deal because "RPOF and the Republican legislative leaders were concerned that paying Greer pursuant to the agreement would need to be reported on state required finance reports which would expose the existence of the agreement.'"

He says Gonzalez asked him to "invalidate the agreement and execute a new agreement between Greer and a major Republican Party donor or the Committee of Continuous Existence (CCE) of either Speaker of the House Designate Dean Cannon or Senate President Designate Mike Haridopolous. Greer declined."

At that point, Greer says, "RPOF signatories to the agreement publicly denied its existence."

Then, he says, Gonzalez told him the deal was invalid "because it contained faxed signatures."

Greer says he sent Gonzalez a letter "citing opinions from every Appellate District in Florida holding that faxed signatures were in fact enforceable," and the party changed its tune again, and said the deal was invalid because "Greer had never signed it, though he actually had in fact signed it and possessed a copy of same, a copy of which is attached hereto as Exhibit 'D.'"

Three days later, at the annual state party convention on Feb. 20, 2010, Greer says, newly elected Chairman Thrasher "stated unequivocally that the agreement did not exist."

Then they offered him hush money, Greer says.

He claims: "Shortly after March 1, 2010, RPOF consultants Pat Bainter and Marc Reichelderfer contacted former Seminole County Republican Executive Committee Chairman James Stelling to communicate an offer to Greer of $200,000 from an outside entity if Greer would be willing to forego pursuing his $150,000 claim against RPOF and keep the agreement confidential.

"Greer refused to accept the 'hush money,'" he says, "upon which Mr. Gonzalez once again surfaced and fabricated his next attempt to avoid the obligations of the agreement" by claiming that Greer had set up a fund-raising company called Victory Strategies LLC without informing the party. "As a result, Mr. Gonzalez alleged the agreement was based on fraud and therefore unenforceable."

Greer says he replied, through counsel, that Gonzalez's latest claims were hooey, and that Gonzalez knew it. He says the party "did in fact know about Victory Strategies," and acknowledged it in the original draft of the contested agreement, which authorized all the fees paid by Victory Strategies.

Finally, Greer says, "in its final desperate attempt to avoid its express liability under the agreement, RPOF announced that it was going to have Greer prosecuted for failing to disclose Victory Strategies, LLC."

He says that party swore to a complaint to the Florida Department of Legal Affairs "for a criminal investigation of Victory Strategies, LLC's contract, claiming it was a secret agreement to funnel money to Greer." But he says the part did not disclose to the investigators "that it was in fact aware of Victory Strategies" and had ratified all of its payments in the original draft in the agreement."

Greer adds that Victory Strategies "actually saved RPOF hundreds of thousands of dollars" by taking over the duties of a previous fund raiser.

"The Office of the Statewide Prosecutor thereafter empanelled a Grand Jury, which was likewise not presented with the foregoing disclosures, resulting in Greer's subsequent indictment and criminal prosecution, which cost Greer hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney's fees and deep and irreparable harm to his reputation and his ability to become gainfully employed and support his family."

Greer seeks damages for breach of contract, and $5 million in punitive damages.

He is represented by Damon Chase, of Lake Mary.

The Sentinel summed up the tale rather tersely in its Oct. 7 report: "Rather than face an open vote on his dismissal, Greer, 49, of Oviedo, resigned in January 2010. Party leaders were outraged by his extravagant spending habits."

Republican Party leaders are scheduled to be deposed in November, according to the Sentinel.

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