A Veteran Reporter's Take on the Jim Greer Case

Feb 22, 2013

Lucy Morgan speaks before members of the Capital Tiger Bay Club.

A veteran newspaper reporter often called “The Most Feared Woman in Florida” gives her take on the case of former Republican Party of Florida Chair Jim Greer.  Tom Flanigan reports Lucy Morgan shared her thoughts with the Capital Tiger Bay Club on Friday, February 22nd.

The newspaper was called the “St. Petersburg Times” when Lucy Morgan signed on as a reporter back in 1968.  Today the paper is the “Tampa Bay Times” and Morgan told Tiger Bay members she’d sort of hoped to cover one more big story before retiring.

“But I’d really wanted to see a trial and see what would happen with all of this.  However, I didn’t want to spend two weeks in Orlando watching one, so it’s a mixed blessing.” 

The trial had been set for February eleventh.  On the very day it was to begin, the defendant, former Republican Party of Florida Chair Jim Greer, pleaded guilty to multiple counts of fraud, grand theft and money laundering.  But Morgan says it’s likely there were other people involved.

“Greer himself described in deposition a group of legislative leaders who were spending like ‘drunken sailors’ .  That’s some of the testimony we missed by not having a trial.  I would have loved to have more identification of the drunken sailors and what they might have done with it."

The public, Morgan says, will also be spared the details of numerous  junkets with many high-powered Florida Republicans on the guest list.  What info that is available came from former Party Executive Director Delmar Johnson and apparently involved then Party Finance Chief Harry Sargeant.

“There were frequently ‘for men only’ trips that involved women who were essentially paid to be there.  But Delmar added the detail of seeing a golf cart driven by one of Harry Sargeant’s employees that was filled with prostitutes.”

That allegedly happened in the Bahamas in January of 2008.  Greer’s associations also included then-Republican Governor Charlie Crist, as well as former U-S Senator and longtime Crist political pal George LeMieux.  Morgan says one of Greer’s biggest problems was that he had so few other supporters.

“Greer, who had been hand-selected by Charlie at the advice of LeMieux, quickly became hated by everyone else in the party.  In the depositions he’s described as an ‘arrogant bully’, a ‘spendthrift’, always demanding.  Every place he went it had to be equipped first with peanut M&Ms, Diet Coke and Maker’s Mark, a fairly good bourbon.”

At the height of his power, Greer routinely stayed in hotel rooms costing up to thousands of dollars a night.  Morgan says his accommodations will soon be somewhat more modest.

“He faces sentencing next month.  He could get as much as three-and-a-half years.  My guess is, looking at sentencing guidelines, and the fact he has no felony convictions in his background, could put it closer to 18-months is what he’ll come out of it with.”

And what about the other players in the Jim Greer saga?

“I actually think that some of these people may be worse off for their not having been a trial than they would have been with a trial.  Because the trial itself might have been less spectacular than some of the facts in the background that we know from reading depositions and discovery.”

A notable exception to that, Morgan believes, is Charlie Crist, the man who put Greer in the position that led to his downfall.  Now a Democrat, Crist’s approval ratings remain significantly higher than his successor Republican Rick Scott.  And it’s widely assumed that Crist is gearing up for another gubernatorial run.