Former top officials in the Republican Party of Florida, including chair Jim Greer and executive director Delmar Johnson, spent thousands of party dollars to buy themselves fine cigars, lobster dinners, souvenirs and, in one case, a Winnie the Pooh-themed birthday party.
The former office manager for the party, who says she was fired after she voiced concerns about top officials’ spending, gave details on their spending in a story published Sunday in the St. Petersburg Times.
Susan Wright had access to contracts and expense reports, meaning she saw expenses paid with Greer and Johnson’s personal credit cards and later reimbursed by the party.
For example, the two used their personal cards to spend $243 on Wayne Newton concert tickets.
Wright described top officials as belonging to a “little club” that loved the good life.
“If you were in the club, you got your meals picked up, trips and cigars,” she told the Times. “They loved to spend money on expensive cigars. … They ate good all the time: $95 lobsters, $100 steak dinners.”
The good life included little things, too, according to Wright.
“They couldn’t go to a gas station without buying bottled water and snacks,” she said. “Delmar loved souvenirs. He couldn’t go to an airport without buying them — snow globes, whatever. … The chairman would buy three to four magazines, newspapers, any reading material for every trip.”
She also noted one incident in which Greer used GOP money to pay staffers to come to his son’s first birthday party.
Greer, 48, surrounded himself with a party-funded entourage. She said he commanded that certain party employees staff personal events, such as his son’s first birthday party in Cocoa Beach, where Republican insiders were encouraged to wear Winnie-the-Pooh birthday caps.
Johnson and other staffers used a mix of personal and party cards to pick up expenses for the birthday celebration, Wright said. When she questioned a staffer who expensed his mileage and meals as “voter outreach,” he told Johnson, who hauled Wright into his office.
“Whether it’s a party or not, whenever you do events with the chairman, it’s work,” she said Johnson told her, miffed that she wondered about his expenses as well. “It’s nobody’s business what I’m expensing.”
Wright said she worried about the excesses and was among the first to complain about them, a move which she said got her fired. She also said she raised concerns about Victory Strategies — the shell company Greer and Johnson allegedly set up to bilk money out of the party — when it first got a party contract. She was told, she said, to stay quiet or lose her job.
Wright’s now a witness in the state’s criminal case against Greer, which focuses on his involvement in Victory Strategies.
Johnson won’t face charges for his involvement in the company, in exchange for his testimony against Greer.