Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Former Florida Senate President Ken Pruitt says he isn't the unnamed official in a bribery scandal

Former state Senate President Ken Pruitt resigned abruptly at the end of the spring legislative session, so when an indictment came out last week suggesting a public official had accepted a bribe, some people tried to connect the dots to Pruitt.

But Pruitt says he did not accept $87,000 from indicted lobbyist Alan Mendelsohn as part of a scenario spelled out in court filings last week.

"That's ridiculous," Pruitt said Wednesday. Mendelsohn, a Broward County eye doctor, is accused of diverting some of the more than $2 million in campaign contributions that he collected from others to his personal use.

Pruitt said he has not been contacted by anyone investigating Mendelsohn and knew nothing about the investigation or indictment until he read it in various newspapers.

He has not hired a lawyer and regrets his initial failure to respond to questions from reporters who called him last week after the explosive indictment was released.

Prosecutors charged Mendelsohn with lying to federal investigators when he bragged about his ability to bribe certain public officials. The indictment mentions an unnamed public official who was given payments totaling $87,000 between 2003 and 2006. The money was allegedly funneled through a third party who agreed to be an intermediary.

Pruitt said he doesn't know how much money Mendelsohn contributed to his campaign accounts or the political action committees he established while he was in the Legislature.

"Alan was the epicenter of fundraising," Pruitt recalled. "Whenever anyone wanted money, who do you think one of the first calls was made to? Alan Mendelsohn."

Pruitt said his relationship with Mendelsohn was no different than his association with a handful of other lobbyists who frequently helped him raise money for campaigns.

"Alan was a big talker, some of the others weren't as obnoxious, but when you are raising millions, you learn to separate the ones who are just flapping their gums," Pruitt said.

He recalls only one occasion when he had a private dinner with Mendelsohn and another lobbyist to discuss fundraising. He says Mendelsohn was often at fundraisers and events where other lawmakers and lobbyists were present.

Pruitt said he is concerned that some people think he got more than contributions from Mendelsohn and is worried that some will keep their distance from him until the federal investigation is over.

"We may never know who got the $87,000," he said.

Pruitt resigned from the Senate in May saying he wanted to spend more time with his family and seek employment that would enable him to earn more than lawmakers' annual $31,000 salary. He would have been forced to leave the Senate next year because of term limits.

The Port St. Lucie Republican now works for Weiss, Handler, Angelos & Cornwell, a law firm with offices in Boca Raton and Port St. Lucie. He says he wants to use his knowledge of government bureaucracies to help those who need help with public policy. He has registered to lobby the executive branch but won't be able to lobby his former legislative colleagues until 2011.

Pruitt says he was puzzled to hear that federal investigators were questioning former Sen. Mandy Dawson, a Democrat from Fort Lauderdale, about Pruitt's decision to appoint her to chair a health care committee in a Senate dominated by Republicans. He said he made the appointment because she knew health care issues and to help her end her legislative career on a high note, following a tradition that saw some leadership jobs go to minorities.

Dawson told reporters this week that she was questioned by federal investigators who wanted to know how she got the job. She said she does not know whether she is being investigated.

Former Florida Senate President Ken Pruitt says he isn't the unnamed official in a bribery scandal 10/07/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 8, 2009 1:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Mother's testimony about toddler's death brings judge to tears

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Nayashia Williams woke up early on May 7, 2014, to the sound of her daughter calling for her. It was the last time the young mother's mornings would begin with a summons from Myla Presley, who couldn't yet climb over the mesh fencing around the playpen she used as a bed.

    Deandre Gilmore looks towards the gallery Tuesday in a Tampa courtroom. Gilmore is accused of killing the 19 month-old daughter of his girlfriend in 2014. He said the child fell while he was giving her a bath. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  2. Speakers: Getting tough can't be only response to teen car thefts

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — Bob Dillinger remembers coming to Pinellas County as a legal intern in 1975. There were five major poverty zones in St. Petersburg.

    Wengay Newton, Florida House of Representatives (in front, in center), talks as a panelist to a packed room during a community forum on "Reclaiming our Youth: Is Juvenile Justice a Reality?" at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Museum in St. Petersburg Wednesday evening (10/17/17). The event was presented by the Fred G. Minnis, Sr. Bar Association. Community leaders discussed the ongoing auto theft epidemic among Pinellas youth.
  3. Internal White House documents allege manufacturing decline increases abortions, infertility and spousal abuse

    Politics

    White House officials working on trade policy were alarmed last month when a top adviser to President Donald Trump circulated a two-page document that alleged a weakened manufacturing sector leads to an increase in abortion, spousal abuse, divorce and infertility, two people familiar with the matter told the …

  4. Black entrepreneur says city stiffing him on project after he endorsed Rick Baker

    News

    ST. PETERSBURG — A prominent African-American resident says his endorsement of mayoral candidate Rick Baker has led city officials to freeze him out of a major construction project along the historic "Deuces" stretch of 22nd Street S.