The Lakeland Ledger calls on Rickpublican Mike Haridopolos to resign in the face of news of his selective amnesia and outright lies regarding what he knew, or didn’t know, about the GOP’s sweetheart deal with ousted GOP Chairman Jim Greer.
Lakeland Ledger Editorial: Senate President’s Lies: Haridopolos Should Resign
It’s amazing how candid some politicians can become if they know they’re risking perjury when they answer tough questions falsely. They feel free to say whatever is convenient to them when they’re talking to reporters or to the general public, but they occasionally make a 180-degree turn if they’re first required to raise their right hands and swear to tell the truth.
The latest example is the president of the Florida Senate, Mike Haridopolos, a full-time politician and part-time college lecturer from Brevard County who once thought he had a good chance of being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012. A few months on the campaign trail persuaded him that the voters weren’t likely to agree with that, so he dropped out and headed back to Tallahassee. He’ll preside over the 2012 legislative session, beginning next month, before retiring because of term limits.
The Jim Greer case continues to dog Haridopolos. Just before Thanksgiving, he found himself in the uncomfortable position of having to give a deposition to a lawyer representing Greer, the former state Republican Party chairman who faces criminal charges involving misuse of party funds.
Under oath, Haridopolos admitted the obvious — that he and other Republican leaders had signed a settlement agreement in which Greer agreed to resign in return for a $124,000 severance payment from the party in 2010. (Greer never received the payment, and he has filed a civil suit against party officials — including Haridopolos — to get the money, among other things.)
The problem was that Haridopolos had previously denied having signed — or even seen — the settlement agreement. A Miami Herald reporter had recorded his denial on a video camera in April 2010, so the Greer lawyer wanted to know how Haridopolos reconciled the conflicting statements.
“I believe what I told him [the reporter] was not the whole story, yeah,” said the Senate president. He elaborated by saying he thought the agreement was confidential and “I said the contrary because I thought I wasn’t allowed to talk about it.”
If that were the case, of course, he could simply have refused to discuss the matter. Instead, he chose to falsely characterize his own conduct at a time when the truth likely would have hurt him politically.
During a deposition, Haridopolos was sharply critical of Greer, saying he was “incredibly arrogant” and “incredibly unpopular” with people in the party.
In light of that, Greer’s lawyer inquired, why did Haridopolos join in issuing a statement praising Greer’s service to the party? “It was a political statement,” Haridopolos answered.
POLITICS VS. TRUTH
So a “political statement” shouldn’t be taken seriously by the public? The problem with that is that politicians don’t label which of their statements are true and which are merely “political.” Small wonder that so many people automatically disregard anything that comes out of the mouths of their elected officials.
If Haridopolos had any respect for the Senate over which he presides, he would resign and make room for an honest successor. If the Senate has any respect for itself, it will pass a resolution of no confidence in Haridopolos and urge him to step aside.
It wouldn’t be the first official rebuke of its president by the Senate.
In the most recent legislative session, the Senate agreed to a letter of admonishment to Haridopolos for improperly filling out financial-disclosure statements required of all elected state officials, but it imposed no punishment. Haridopolos didn’t contest the charges before either the Senate Rules Committee (which he had appointed) or the state Ethics Commission, but said the mistakes were inadvertent.
The Rules Committee, which recommended the mild letter, was chaired by Sen. John Thrasher, R-Jacksonville, who succeeded Greer as party chairman and signed the payment agreement that Haridopolos also signed.
Haridopolos can’t claim his false statements regarding the Greer settlement were inadvertent. He ought to spare himself — and his fellow senators — any further embarrassment and remove himself from the Senate presidency, if not from the Senate itself.