TALLAHASSEE -- Delmar Johnson, former executive director of the Republican Party of Florida, brought Easter presents for the children when he arrived at former party chairman Jim Greer’s house in Oviedo on the night of March 29, 2010.
Greer’s children were happy to see “Uncle Gar Gar,” godfather to Aiden, Greer’s toddler son.
Together the two men discussed the finances of Victory Strategies, the company Greer and Johnson created in early 2009, and a severance agreement that was supposed to pay Greer $124,000. They also spent time speculating about who might have conspired to force Greer out of his job, what party auditors would find and whether Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs was conducting a criminal investigation.
Greer seemed unaware of how much money Victory Strategies had collected from the party, at one point wondering what he had done with “all that money.’’
Damon Chase, the lawyer who represents Greer says the conversation — which was secretly recorded by Johnson as part of an immunity deal with prosecutors and released this week — makes it appear that Johnson was running the company.
“It is the smoking gun that completely exonerates Greer,’’ Chase said Thursday. He said additional documents from the party will also exonerate Greer.
Greer faces trial for money laundering and fraud in mid November. He is accused of secretly creating the company to get money from the party. Johnson has been given immunity from prosecution and is testifying against him.
At one point in the taped conversation, Johnson told Greer he had heard Greer was working “with the authorities.’’ Greer noted he had heard the same thing about Johnson, saying his lawyer suggested Johnson had become a “stoolie” — a word for an informant — and warned that Johnson “could have been wired.’’
Throughout the conversation Greer discussed his problems in getting the party to honor the Jan. 5, 2010, severance agreement. For months party officials had been denying the existence of the agreement. On March 31, three days after investigators taped the Greer conversation, party officials admitted the agreement existed but said Greer had committed fraud to obtain it and no payments would be made.
The agreement included a clause that exonerated Greer’s spending, saying the records had been examined by party officials who found no wrongdoing. Those officials have since testified that they were given a cursory look at some records but never saw anything pertaining to Victory Strategies.
Johnson told Greer he had assured everyone at the party that Greer had not received any money from the company. Records indicate Greer received 60 percent of the $200,000 the party paid the company.
At one point the two men discussed an outstanding bill they owed to GrayRobinson, the law firm that created the Victory Strategies corporation for them. They still owed the firm $4,250.
“We’ve got to pay Gray Robinson because they have some fiduciary responsibility to us if we pay their bill,’’ Greer insisted. “I’m concerned if we don’t.”
They agreed to split the tab with Greer picking up 60 percent, his share of the company’s profits. Johnson agreed to bring cash the following day for his share. Johnson also promised Greer he would never tell anyone about the money Greer made from the contract.
Greer said his lawyers, including two former U.S. attorneys, had reviewed the Victory Strategies contract and believed there was no crime. But another attorney, Chase, said he had been told by several party officials that Greer was about to be arrested. Chase told Greer to have a suit ready to wear when he was arrested.
Greer said former U.S. Attorney Greg Miller of Tallahassee, one of his lawyers at the time, told him he had checked with courthouse sources in Tallahassee and there was nothing relating to Greer on a grand jury schedule. Later Miller talked to Meggs and was told he was not investigating Greer.
Greer said he expected the party to seek reimbursement for some of his credit card expenditures, maybe as much as $6,500. Some mistakes were made, Greer admitted. He said plane tickets for his children should not have been purchased on the card. Greer said he considered writing a check to the party but his lawyer advised against it.
Rumors were rampant in Tallahassee, where party operatives and political consultants were predicting Greer would be arrested. Then there was a story in Palm Beach County indicating a federal grand jury might be investigating Greer’s use of an airplane.
In the end it was Attorney General Bill McCollum who gave the Victory Strategies information to law enforcement authorities and a Statewide Grand Jury that indicted Greer in June 2010.