GOP officials knew about Greer fundraising deal, former finance chair says

Published Apr. 13, 2012

TALLAHASSEE — Harry Sargeant III, former finance chair for the Florida Republican of Party says he and other party officials knew all about it when former GOP chairman Jim Greer and the party's executive director took over fundraising operations.

The accusations aim at the heart of a statewide grand jury indictment accusing Greer of grand theft of more than $100,000 from the party by diverting money to Victory Strategies, a company created to handle fundraising duties for the party. The criminal charges allege that Greer diverted the money without the knowledge or consent of party officials.

Damon Chase, a Lake Mary lawyer who represents Greer, said state prosecutors should dismiss the charges against the former chairman.

"They simply cannot, and should not, continue to put him through this hell,'' Chase said.

In an affidavit Chase released Friday, Sargeant said Greer was "frustrated and concerned'' over the way party fundraising was being handled by Meredith O'Rourke, a longtime fundraiser who was being paid as much as $30,000 a month to raise funds for party operations.

In late 2008 Greer terminated her contract with the party and helped create Victory Strategies, a corporation he and the party's executive director, Delmar Johnson jointly owned.

Sargeant said he, Gov. Charlie Crist and George LeMieux, the governor's former chief of staff, had several discussions about the situation and determined in January 2009 that Greer should terminate the contract with O'Rourke and take over fundraising responsibilities with Johnson.

"As finance chairman and a major donor to the RPOF, I did not consider it inappropriate for Greer and or Mr. Johnson to receive additional compensation for assuming additional fundraising responsibilities, and in fact believed it would be more efficient and beneficial to the RPOF,'' the affidavit notes.

Lobbyist Brian Ballard, in a sworn statement last November, said O'Rourke asked him to check with Crist and see if the governor approved of her dismissal. Ballard said he talked to Crist, and the governor said he had approved of the new arrangement and that it was Greer's prerogative to restructure the party's fundraising plans.

Sargeant, in the affidavit, said he was surprised when Greer was charged with a crime relating to the fundraising company.

Contacted late Friday Crist said he could not confirm all of the allegations in the affidavit.

"I think there was a personality conflict between Greer and O'Rourke,'' Crist said. "But it was my understanding that Delmar was going to handle fundraising. But the chairman also helps out, so to that extent I knew.

Said Anna Nix, a spokeswoman for LeMieux: "As previously stated, Sen. LeMieux did not participate in, nor was aware of, any discussions regarding the payment of additional compensation to Mr. Greer."

Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Michael Williams did not return a telephone call. Greer is scheduled to face trial on the criminal charges July 30.