By Aaron Deslatte and Josh Hafenbrack, Tallahassee Bureau
TALLAHASSEE – Embattled Florida Republican chairman Jim Greer is facing a coup from disgruntled party leaders enraged that he took sides in the state’s U.S. Senate primary and who are now accusing him of causing “irreparable harm” with the party check book.
In a written request for a special meeting signed by 50 executive committee members and sent to Greer late Thursday, the group alleges Greer has run up a $4 million deficit due to “excessive spending,” a recurring complaint that has fixated on everything from high-priced consultants to limo rides, cigars and private jets.
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The disgruntled party officials make four charges that Greer has mismanaged the party and demands a closed-door session at next month’s annual conference in Orlando to vote on whether to oust him. Among the signees were Volusia County GOP Chair Joe Stich and Osceola committee members George Jackson and George Jackow.
A budget document they also released suggests big donors expected to contribute $5.5 million this election cycle have so far donated roughly $1.4 million.
Even the party’s vice-chairman, Allen Cox of Leon County, is calling for Greer’s ouster, and he was promptly booted off the budget committee this week after the chairman complained that Cox had leaked private budget material to the media.
“It’s a matter of protesting the flagrant spending practices we’ve been witnessing for the last three years,” Cox said. “We have never had an operating deficit before.”
Former GOP chair Tom Slade has already called on Greer to resign, and Cox said another former chair, Carole Jean Jordan, would do the same.
“The field’s had enough of this excessive spending,” Cox said.
Greer has denied for months that he was spending lavishly and publicly chopped up his GOP-issued American Express card at a party meeting last August, after reports of former House Speaker Ray Sansom’s lavish spending with GOP dollars.
A GOP spokeswoman suggested the budget document leaked was out of date.
But Greer, an Oviedo native installed as chairman by Gov. Charlie Crist, has been taking heat for months from disaffected conservatives since trying to steer party support to Crist in his GOP primary with former House Speaker Marco Rubio last summer.
“With all of the allegations that are swirling, this issue needs to be vetted,” said one of the signees, Peter Feaman, chairman of the state caucus of committee members.
Republican National Committeeman Paul Senft, a Greer supporter from Polk County, conceded some larger developers who had been counted on to write big checks had fallen on harder times and cut back their giving – but he said that had nothing to do Greer.
“How do you combat hearsay when people have their mind made up and don’t want to be confused by facts?” Senft said.
Greer did not return phone calls Thursday, but RPOF spokeswoman Katie Gordon Betta denied the state party had a deficit and said there would be plenty of time for party members to meet with Greer over the Jan. 8-9 annual meeting at the Rosen Plaza.
She said Cox was dismissed for leaking line-item budget information to the media, detailing things the party was spending money on, like rent, computer software and direct-mail services.
“If there’s trouble within a family, you don’t air your dirty laundry out with everyone,” Betta said. “This is the vice chairman of our party essentially handing our playbook over to the Democrats.”
Crist said Thursday that he doesn’t see any evidence that Greer mismanaged party funds.
“What do I think is motivating it?” he told the Sun Sentinel editorial board.
“Others would like to be chairman. This is a competitive world. I think it’s that simple. (Greer) has done a good job. He’s done more minority outreach for the Republican Party of Florida than I’ve seen. Works hard every day at it. I think he’s done a good job.”
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