It had never been clear what George LeMieux did to earn $150,000 for consulting services with the state GOP in 2008 and 2009 after he left his job as Gov. Charlie Crist's chief of staff for private law practice.
But LeMieux, now a leading Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, spelled it out in a TV interview.
"I helped the Republican Party on outreach issues to Hispanics, to African-Americans. I still advised the Governor's Office on things that were more political," LeMieux said in a Political Connections interview that aired Sunday on Bay News 9.
Here's the problem: Former state GOP chairman Jim Greer, who signed the party checks and read about LeMieux's interview, says the explanation is hogwash.
"Minority outreach — is he kidding?" Greer told the Times/Herald.
"Here are the facts: I was instructed to give George a $10,000-a-month contract which was common practice," Greer said. "He provided no service whatsoever regarding minority outreach or anything else of value that I was aware of. He later informed me the contract was for him not receiving the full amount of an agreed-upon bonus for Gov. Crist winning the election."
Greer, once a close ally of LeMieux and Crist, is facing criminal charges for allegedly setting up a secret fundraising company and funneling $125,000 in party money to himself. No trial date is set, and Greer insists he did nothing wrong, that party leaders were aware of his fundraising work, and that LeMieux actually came up with the idea to save the party money.
LeMieux denies knowing anything about Greer's company, and a campaign spokeswoman said Greer is wrong about his consulting work for the party.
"It's sad Jim Greer is worried about his impending criminal trial, and he's clearly under a great deal of stress. However, that doesn't change the fact that George LeMieux provided advice to the Republican Party of Florida in 2008 and early 2009 on a wide variety of topics, including minority outreach," said spokeswoman Anna Nix.
Like a number of Crist's gubernatorial campaign staffers, LeMieux did receive hefty bonuses from the state party for his campaign work — $50,000 after Crist won the primary and another $150,000 after the November 2006 general election, when LeMieux was the governor's chief of staff earning $162,000 annually.
Greer suggested the consulting contract was on top of those previously reported bonuses. He would not say who instructed him to pay LeMieux, but implied it was Crist.
"Due to George's relationship with the governor and as the former chief of staff, his requests were adhered to many times without my knowledge," Greer said.
The party paid another friend and political aide to Crist, Jay Burmer, $10,000 a month for consulting work — $350,000 in total — that party leaders have never been able to identify.
Crist could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
LeMieux's contract with the state party began after he left the Governor's Office in late 2007 to work at the law firm of Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart. His 2009 disclosure report showed he earned $755,000 from that firm. In August 2009, Crist appointed him to serve out the unexpired term of former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez.
In Sunday's television interview, LeMieux said the party contract ended in early 2009 at Greer's request.
"Jim Greer came to me in 2009 and said there wasn't any more money left to keep me on board. Maybe we know now why that was, because the money was going someplace else," LeMieux said.
Not so, says Greer: "He only stopped receiving the payments in April or March of '09 after I advised him of media interest. And it was he who discontinued the arrangements and payments due to his concern over the contract. George seems to have memory loss about this and other matters which he may need to be reminded of."
Greer and his wife have not hidden their bitterness toward former friends and political allies who they say have turned their backs since the criminal charges.
"Please know I liked George and I'm not wanting to bring anyone down," Greer said. "But the damage that has been done to me, my wife and children requires the truth and facts on this and many other matters."
Miami Herald staff writer Marc Caputo contributed to this report. Adam C. Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.