TALLAHASSEE — Testifying in a deposition, Senate President Mike Haridopolos admitted he didn't tell the truth last year when he denied knowledge of a secret settlement that ended Jim Greer's tumultuous tenure as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
"I believe what I told him was not the whole story, yeah," Haridopolos said last week of his April 2010 video interview with Marc Caputo, then a reporter in the Times/Herald capital bureau.
The Merritt Island lawmaker, who at the time said "there were no agreements," now says he wasn't truthful because he believed the agreement with Greer was confidential.
"I said the contrary because I thought I wasn't allowed to talk about it," Haridopolos testified, according to a transcript of the deposition in Greer's criminal case.
The Senate president's sworn testimony offers new glimpses into the elaborate behind-the-scenes machinations by top Florida Republican leaders in late 2009 and early 2010 to coerce Greer's resignation, which included the sweetener of a $124,000 severance payment. But the payment was never made and is now the subject of a civil lawsuit by Greer against the Republican Party of Florida.
A statewide grand jury has charged Greer with fraud and money laundering in connection with Victory Strategies, a Greer-founded firm that conducted party fundraising. In his statement, Haridopolos says he had no knowledge of Victory Strategies at the time he helped orchestrate Greer's removal.
Greer's attorneys say their client is innocent and suggest that Republicans orchestrated the criminal charges against him to avoid paying his severance.
The severance deal is key to Greer's defense, as are the poor memories of politicians such as Haridopolos, who might have to take the stand and admit under oath that he's not always truthful.
Haridopolos said that in discussions with House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, and party attorney Jason Gonzalez, he supported the severance payment "if (Greer) had not done anything wrong, nothing illegal … I thought that was fair."
Haridopolos answered questions for more than 90 minutes last week in a Tallahassee law office, with Greer's attorney, Damon Chase, doing most of the questioning. It was the first time the veteran legislator and University of Florida political science instructor had given a deposition, he said.
The senator repeatedly testified that he could not recall details of the highly publicized controversy.
For example, Haridopolos testified, he couldn't remember transferring $295,000 from the Republican Party to a political committee he controlled. "No, I don't remember that," Haridopolos testified.
Haridopolos said he didn't remember that his political consultant, Pat Bainter, met with a party official, Jim Stelling, to see if Greer would accept the severance payment from a source other than the party. "I don't recall that," Haridopolos testified.
Haridopolos, a member of the state party's executive committee, said he couldn't even recall whether he voted to re-elect Greer as chairman in 2009. "Yeah, I think I voted for him. I think it was unanimous," he said.
In the deposition, Haridopolos spoke critically of Greer, calling him "incredibly unpopular and incredibly arrogant" and a party spendthrift who refused to raise money for the GOP. "Nobody really liked him," Haridopolos said.
In light of that, Chase asked Haridopolos why he joined in a glowing statement about Greer's performance as chairman when he resigned on Jan. 5, 2010.
"It was a political statement," Haridopolos replied.
On Tuesday, Haridopolos was named as a defendant in a civil suit Greer has filed against the Republican Party of Florida, claiming he was illegally denied the severance money after he resigned.
Steve Bousquet can be reached at email@example.com or (850) 224-7263.