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Whitewash Watch: Florida Democrats Demand Senators Thrasher and Flores Recuse Themselves In Haridopo

For Immediate Release: February 23, 2011 Contact: Eric Jotkoff, (850) 222-3411
Whitewash Watch: Florida Democrats Demand Senators Thrasher and Flores Recuse Themselves In Haridopolos’s Ethics Case
The Florida Democratic Party today demanded that former Republican Party Chairman John Thrasher, who is currently the Senate Rules Chairman, and Senator Anitere Flores recuse themselves from Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ ethics case after they endorsed his campaign.
“After endorsing Mike Haridopolos’ campaign, Sen. Thrasher and Sen. Flores have clear conflicts of interest that prevent them from impartially punishing Haridopolos after he plead guilty to systemically breaking Florida’s ethics laws,” said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff.
“Haridopolos’ career has been marred by his numerous ethical lapses and sweetheart deals, as he continues using the agenda setting power of his office to demand donations from lobbyists and special interests. While anything short of a formal censure for Haridopolos would show that the Republicans are whitewashing Haridopolos’ questionable ethics and guilty plea, Thrasher and Flores’ involvement in the case would further discredit Haridopolos’ punishment and damage the reputation of the Florida Senate.”
On November 15th, 2010, Haridopolos appointed Thrasher as Chairman of the Rules Committee, as Haridopolos was working towards his peal agreement with the Florida Ethics Commission. The Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to consider the case against Haridopolos on Thursday, February 24th.
Some examples of Haridopolos’ questionable ethics include but are not limited to:
Haridopolos Had “Special Contract” With Brevard Community College To Teach Less And Write But Paid The Same As Regular Faculty.  In August 2005, Florida Today reported “Under the terms of a special contract offered by BCC President Tom Gamble and the college’s Board of Trustees after his 2003 election to the state Senate, Haridopolos is paid the same as a professor who teaches 10 classes a year — $39,702 last year — but isn’t required to teach.  Instead, during the four-year term of the contract, the 35-year-old assistant professor and Republican senator from Indialantic has a special assignment to write a book about the history of the Legislature and his personal experiences.  The contract has raised concerns from some BCC faculty members and inevitable questions about the value of the deal for taxpayers who provide Haridopolos almost $70,000 a year, including his Senate job.” [Florida Today, 8/21/05]
Columnist: Despite Being Paid $150,000 In Taxpayer Money, Haridopolos Book Still Not Published.  In April 2008, Luis Zaragoza wrote in the Orlando Sentinel “If you want to read the new book by state Sen. Mike Haridopolos — the one that Brevard Community College paid him more than $150,000 in public money to write — don’t count on finding it at the nearest Barnes & Noble.  That’s because nearly a year after the manuscript was finished, it still hasn’t been published.  In fact, Haridopolos won’t allow copies of the manuscript to leave the BCC campus for fear of illegal copying…But it’s unclear when or whether the book will get published. Haridopolos has said a deal is near. BCC officials directed all questions to Vice President of Public Affairs Jim Ross, who said he hasn’t been involved in any talks with publishers.  ‘I’m surprised it hasn’t been published by now,’ said Jim Hanley, who was a college trustee in 2003. When Hanley left the board last summer after serving eight years, he understood that the senator’s manuscript would be published ‘any day now,’ he said.” [Zaragoza, Orlando Sentinel, 4/7/08]
Haridopolos Was Hired As Lecturer At University of Florida – Some Questioned Whether He Was Being Hired For Influence Rather Than Academics.  In February 2008, Florida Today reported “State Sen. Mike Haridopolos is the newest faculty member at the University of Florida.  Haridopolos, R-Indialantic, will act as a lecturer both within the university’s political science department and the newly founded Bob Graham Center for Public Service…It also puts on its payroll someone who should have tremendous influence on the university’s budget in the coming years. Haridopolos is in line to become Senate president in 2010. From that position, he will hold great sway over how much money flows to the university from Tallahassee. ” [Florida Today, 2/22/08]
·         Haridopolos Was Paid More Than Most Lecturers And Didn’t Have Doctorate.  In March 2008, the St. Petersburg Times reported “The University of Florida hired Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, chairman of the Senate Finance and Tax Committee. He is paid $75,000 a year as a lecturer, a salary more in line with those paid to tenured professors.  Haridopolos, 38, has a master’s degree, the minimum requirement for lecturers at UF, and is working on his doctorate. His hiring has caused an uproar among some UF faculty members who say budget cuts are forcing the university to hire fewer instructors and deal with larger class sizes.  Both senators were hired without an open search for other candidates for the jobs, and both are allowed time off during legislative sessions.” [St. Petersburg Times, 3/21/08]
Headline: Florida GOP Transfers Raise Questions.  In February 2010, the Miami Herald reported “In the days after the Florida GOP chairman resigned under mounting criticism of his spending, nearly $1 million in donations was quietly stashed into two little-known committees tied to legislative leaders.  A party spokeswoman said Tuesday that Republican Party of Florida chairman Jim Greer approved the money transfers and one of the lawmakers, incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos, called them ‘common practice.’ He said the money represents a small portion of the donations collected for the party by him, incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon, and the leading Republican candidate for governor, Attorney General Bill McCollum.  ‘If we wanted to hide something we wouldn’t have put the money into a committee with my name on it,’ said Haridopolos, whose Alliance for a Stronger Economy received nearly $295,000 one week after Greer was forced out in January. ‘. . . We’re doing it in a transparent way.’” [Miami Herald, 2/10/10, ellipses original]
·         Greer Attorney Said Haridopolos Offered Greer $200,000 In “Hush Money” To Keep Deal Sending Party Fundraising Commissions To A Private Company Secret.  In April 2010, the Orlando Sentinel reported “The action came one day after Attorney General Bill McCollum announced he had sought a criminal investigation of Greer for signing an allegedly secret contract to funnel party fundraising commissions to a private company co-owned by Greer and party then-Executive Director Delmar Johnson.  The lawsuit says party leaders, including Thrasher, reneged on a deal that would have paid Greer $11,250 a month for 11 months, plus health insurance, to resign earlier this year. He wants damages from the party and from Thrasher.  An attached letter from Greer’s attorney, Damon Chase of Lake Mary, also alleges that representatives of Cannon and incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, had, in recent weeks, offered Greer $200,000 in ‘hush money’ if he would keep the deal a secret…The suit also suggests that a criminal investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, requested by McCollum, ‘may well encompass’ legislative and party leaders, including Cannon, Haridopolos and Thrasher.” [Orlando Sentinel, 4/2/10]
·         Editorial: Haridopolos and Thrasher Signed Secret Severance Package To Pay Greer Another $124,000.  In an April 2010 editorial, the St. Petersburg Times wrote “This is the Republican Party that preaches fiscal responsibility?  Cannon and Haridopolos were portrayed as the white hats for finally forcing Greer out. In fact, they signed a secret severance agreement with Greer to pay him another $124,000. So did Sen. John Thrasher of St. Augustine, the new GOP chairman. Even more remarkable is that the deal attempted to clear Greer of any wrongdoing as chairman and gagged them all from discussing any details, as if that will make nosy prosecutors go away.  This is the Republican Party that rails against fraud and corruption?” [St. Petersburg Times, 4/2/10]

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