Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lobbyist Brian Ballard recounts call with Gov. Charlie Crist for Jim Greer criminal case

TALLAHASSEE — Lobbyist Brian Ballard has unwittingly become a pivotal figure in the state's fraud and money laundering case against former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer.

Ballard, a fundraiser and confidant to former Gov. Charlie Crist, was brought into the criminal case by Greer's lawyers to recount a telephone call he had with the governor in January 2009.

In testimony at a Nov. 17 deposition, Ballard said the governor approved of plans to bring GOP fundraising "in house'' and pay extra money to Greer and Delmar Johnson, the party's executive director.

But Ballard said he knew nothing of Victory Strategies, the private corporation Greer and Johnson established to receive a percentage of money they raised. Ballard said he first heard about the company when he read about it in newspapers.

Crist and other GOP leaders have said they were unaware of the corporation until after Greer resigned in early 2010, but Greer's attorneys insist the governor and others knew about Victory Strategies from the beginning.

The statewide grand jury charges against Greer focus on the creation of Victory Strategies and more than $100,000 funneled to the corporation from GOP coffers. Johnson also profited from the arrangement but was not charged. He has been cooperating with prosecutors and is expected to testify against Greer.

Greer says the criminal charges stem from animosity among party leaders who were mad at him for supporting Crist in his unsuccessful 2010 U.S. Senate race against Marco Rubio.

Greer has filed a $5 million suit against the state party alleging leaders reneged on a severance agreement to pay him $130,000.

The case against Greer is likely to feature testimony from many of the state's GOP leaders in the midst of heated 2012 elections and fierce fighting over new congressional and legislative districts.

Under questioning from Greer's lawyers, Ballard recounted details of conversations he had with Crist and former GOP fundraiser Meredith O'Rourke. A transcript of that testimony was obtained by the St Petersburg Times on Thursday.

Ballard said he got a call from O'Rourke in January 2009 after she learned that Greer was dramatically cutting her pay to $5,000 a month.

She had previously made as much as $30,000 a month, Ballard said. O'Rourke wanted him to see if the decision had been approved by the governor or his chief of staff, George LeMieux.

"I asked if he (Crist) had approved the new arrangement with Meredith and the new arrangement with the party fundraising in general,'' Ballard said. "He said he had approved it, that it was the chairman's prerogative to restructure and reorganize fundraising, that they were going to do it in house. It would save money, and he supported what the chairman was talking about.''

The governor expected Greer and Johnson to be compensated but felt it would be cheaper than retaining O'Rourke, Ballard said.

Charges against Jim Greer

Count 1, organized fraud: Prosecutors allege Greer created Victory Strategies with former GOP executive director Delmar Johnson to fraudulently obtain money from RPOF. Greer kept his involvement in the company secret.

Count 2, third-degree theft: At Greer's direction, Johnson told GOP financial officials the chairman wanted them to pay Victory Strategies $10,000 on top of its fundraising commission. The company then cut a check to Greer for $6,000.

Count 3, third-degree theft: Johnson, at Greer's direction, told GOP finance officials to pay Victory Strategies an extra $10,000. The next day, Victory Strategies deposited $15,000 in Greer's personal bank account.

Count 4, second-degree theft: The party paid Victory Strategies $30,000 to conduct a poll for Charlie Crist's Senate campaign. The poll was never conducted, and a check for $25,000 went from the company to Greer's checking account.

Count 5, third-degree theft: Johnson billed the party "per the chairman'' for $21,250 for two months of fundraising and "consulting'' by Victory Strategies. The next day, the company paid Greer $12,250.

Count 6, money laundering: Prosecutors say Greer's company was designed solely to conceal or disguise the personal payments, and that the total involved was nearly $200,000 obtained over a year.

Lobbyist Brian Ballard recounts call with Gov. Charlie Crist for Jim Greer criminal case 12/01/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 1, 2011 9:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Empire' star Grace Byers keynotes USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy luncheon

    Human Interest

    BY AMY SCHERZER

    TAMPA — The first University of South Florida graduate to address the USF's Women in Leadership & Philanthropy supporters, Grace Gealey Byers, class of 2006, centered her speech on her first name, turning it into a verb to share life lessons.

    Grace Byers, University of South Florida Class of 2006, stars on the Fox television show Empire. She delivered the keynote at the USF Women in Leadership and Philanthropy luncheon Friday. Photo by Amy Scherzer
  2. Southeast Seminole Heights holds candlelight vigil for victims' families and each other

    News

    TAMPA — They came together in solidarity in Southeast Seminole Heights, to sustain three families in their grief and to confront fear, at a candlelight vigil held Sunday night in the central Tampa neighborhood.

    A peaceful march that began on east New Orleans Avenue was held during the candlelight vigil for the three victims who were killed in the recent shootings in the Seminole Heights neighborhood in Tampa on Sunday, October 22, 2017.
  3. It's not just Puerto Rico: FEMA bogs down in Florida, Texas too

    HOUSTON — Outside Rachel Roberts' house, a skeleton sits on a chair next to the driveway, a skeleton child on its lap, an empty cup in its hand and a sign at its feet that reads "Waiting on FEMA."

    Ernestino Leon sits among the debris removed from his family’s flood-damaged Bonita Springs home on Oct. 11. He has waited five weeks for FEMA to provide $10,000 to repair the home.
  4. McConnell says he's awaiting Trump guidance on health care

    STERLING, Va. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday he's willing to bring bipartisan health care legislation to the floor if President Donald Trump makes clear he supports it.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s “not certain yet” on what Trump wants.
  5. Tampa's Lance McCullers shows killer instinct in pitching Astros to World Series

    Ml

    HOUSTON — It felt like the beginning on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the arrival of a new force on the World Series stage. The Astros are back, for the first time in a dozen years, and they want to stay a while.

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throwing in the fifth inning of the game between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 12, 2015.