Benderson Cover Up

 

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BENDERSONBLACKKETTER FIRING BY BENDERSON

CANNOT COVER UP SCANDALOUS ILLEGAL BENDERSON SCAM

PART I 

JON SUSCE

It’s way past time that the multimillion dollar so called Public-Private Partnership between Randy Benderson and Sarasota County be exposed for the fraudulent scam that it is.

With the recent firing of Benderson flunky, Paul Blackketter and another Benderson Project Manger involved in the Benderson Project, Mike DePriest sent packing back to Buffalo, and two former competent administrators of the Benderson Project, John Krotec and Nicole Rissler leaving the Benderson scam on the lake, the cover-up of a totally mismanaged multimillion dollar project cannot continue.

BLACKKETTER’S FIRING CANNOT BE DENIED

If anyone believes that Blackketter was not fired by Randy Benderson, they must be part of the multimillion dollar Benderson/Sarasota County Public/Private Partnership scam or have their head buried in the sand. It’s almost comical how Blackketter, who was a total fiscal failure as the CEO of Randy Benderson’s Rowing Park, is being reported as submitting a so-called voluntary resignation.  A prime example of how Benderson’s various scams are covered up since he parachuted into the area from Buffalo, which is also a disgrace to investigative journalism, is the continued cover up of the fraudulent Benderson Rowing Park scam by the Sarasota Herald Tribune.  Case in point, a recent article in the SHT  titled, “Sarasota County Officials Cite Rebound From Purchasing Scandal”, failed to mention one word about Sarasota’s “Dirty Little Secret.”        

 

 BensonPark

  

SARASOTA’S “DIRTY LITTLE SECRET”

The outrageous control that Randy Benderson has over the Sarasota County Commissioners, is exemplified by his 2011, $19.5 million Benderson Rowing Park no-bid contract and management agreement, which has burgeoned into the current $70 million, is disgraceful and appalling.  

_SARASOTA_COUNTY_COMMISSION_2011

 

PATTERSON SIGNS OFF ON BENDERSON SWEETHEART  DEAL

The scandalous nature of the $19.5 million no bid contract signed in 2011 by former chairperson of the Sarasota County Commission, Nora Patterson, and approved by the four other county commissioners, who have received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Benderson, was acknowledged in an email from Kimberly Humphrey to a local developer with this comment after reading THE SARASOTA PHOENIX articles published on December 8, 2014:
“Wow, glad this isn’t my project. Why would the county ever waive a (performance)  bond?” Humphrey is a Project Manager for Sarasota County Capital Projects and Facilities. Humphrey has a LEED AP, GGP, FMP and a FMA.

Not only was Benderson given $19.5 million to assist in building his rowing park, he also received an additional 16% of the $19.5 million to supervise the construction management of the bonanza.It is way past time that the multimillion dollar so-called Public/Private Partnership between Randy Benderson and Sarasota County be exposed for the fraudulent scam that it is by the so-called local major media outlets.

BLACKKETTER  RESIGNATION IS LAUGHABLE

Blackketter was recently caught on a video which clearly depicts a completely out of control, enraged individual, verbally abusing a fellow employee with the most foul, disgusting and repulsive language, and despite Blackketter’s ridiculous pronouncements to the contrary, has been sent packing by Benderson. Blackketter now joins another former incompetent Benderson Project Manager involved with Benderson Rowing Park, previously mentioned Michael DePriest , who has been sent into exile in Buffalo.  

BENDERSON’S STENCH CONTINUES AT PARK

Furthermore if anyone thinks the departure of Blackketter and DePriest will end the stench from what neighborhood activist Alice White once asserted “smells like three day old garbage” in reference to the Sarasota County Commission decision to first back this scam in 2011 by allocating $19.5 million in public money— think again. The excitement once generated for the rowing park has now turned into valid criticism of the no-bid $19.5 million contract that the Sarasota County Commissioners granted to Benderson in January of 2011.  Benderson’s decision to throw Blackketter and DePriest “under the bus” begins to resemble former President Richard Nixon’s Watergate cover-up.

 

KROTEC_RISLER

 

The recent departure of Krotec, who was a once enthusiastic supporter in charge of volunteers at the site, now turned critic of the scam, coupled together with Rissler’s departure to Sarasota County government  after only six months as CEO of the project, only further indicates the obvious stench emanating from this multi-million dollar scam on the lake. 

    

BENDERSON SCAM BEGAN TO CRUMBLE OVER  DREDGE AMERICA LAWSUIT

This Benderson Scam began to crumble when Dredge America sued Benderson in a Federal Court in Tampa for nonpayment of  $529,490 in publicly funded money, which was part of an $1,300,000 contract Dredge had with Benderson. These public funds that Benderson had withheld for over two years were  appropriated to Benderson from Sarasota County for services Benderson had stated were completed by Dredge America. 

BENDERSON STUFFING PUBLIC FUNDS IN HIS PRIVATE ACCOUNTS 

The lawsuit alleged that Benderson withheld public funds allocated to Benderson by Sarasota County for work that Kansas City based Dredge America completed on Benderson’s Rowing Park.                

 Dredge America demanded Benderson pay them the money he owed them—payment that Sarasota County officials had authorized on November 16, 2012— on work which Benderson had informed the county had already been competed by Dredge America. Dredge America documented the work they performed at the rowing park and completely complied with contractual obligations for dredging the lake where Benderson was building his $70 million plus facility       

BENDERSON SETTLES WITH DREDGE FOR $395,000 SETTLEMENT

Dredge America, knowing quite well they would not get a fair hearing in a local court, sued Benderson in a Federal Court room in Tampa.  Benderson, no doubt acknowledging that he wouldn’t get the usual “home cooked” judicial decision as he would in front of a Pat Neal  appointed Judge, paid an out of court settlement to Dredge for $395,000. NEAL

 

What followed was beyond audacious—Randy Benderson making a request of Sarasota County officials to reimburse him the $395,000!

 

Please explain to me how Benderson can ask for an additional $395,000 for a project that he informed Sarasota County officials had been completed and paid up.   How could Benderson ask for an additional $395,000 for a project that has a documented invoice dated June 30, 2014—an invoice which documented that Benderson was paid $525,000 to compensate Dredge America for the completed project?  

The audacity of this latest scandalous request by Benderson should signal that there should be no further delay in bringing forth a criminal investigation of Randy Benderson’s ability to manipulate Sarasota County Government to his financial benefit.

THE  SARASOTA PHOENIX DOES INVESTIGATING

THE SARASOTA PHOENIX became aware of the brewing scandal, between Dredge America and Sarasota County and reported on Benderson’s withholding of public funds intended to be  paid to Dredge America. In addition we began to examine Benderson’s $19.5 million contract with Sarasota County, as a sweetheart deal that borders on the illegal.

It became apparent that Sarasota County officials were not carefully examining the invoices that Benderson has been submitting to them for payment and this is a serious problem.  In addition, has Benderson been holding back funds that Sarasota County officials have authorized to compensate other vendors for work they believe is completed at Benderson Rowing Park in addition to the work performed by Dredge America?

 

NO COUNTY PROCUREMENT DEPARTMENT SUPERVISION
 
The selection process that Sarasota County has allowed Benderson, with full approval of Sarasota County officials and county commissioners, and without adequate supervision from the Sarasota County Procurement/Purchasing Department, is shocking. Incredibly in 2011, Sarasota County officials, including top Sarasota county administrators and county commissioners allowed Benderson to select and hire contractors and consultants without supervision.
What matrix of corruption then allows Randy Benderson to send invoices to Sarasota County officials stating what Sarasota County owes him in compensation for work done by vendors he has hired to work on the Benderson rowing facility? Why do Sarasota County officials routinely, within days and without obvious security measures, issue checks to compensate Benderson?
 
 

62 PAGE INVOICE APPROVED IN ONE DAY

The above referenced invoice totals 62 pages and requests payment for $2,735,203.15.  It was approved the same day, June 30, 2014, by Tim Gaubatz, Thai Tram and Carolyn Eastwood, who are all Sarasota County employees. The check for the full amount was issued July 3, 2014—four days after receipt of the invoice. EASTWOOD

When one local vendor, who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, was asked to comment on this action, the reply was: “I’ve never heard of this in 20 years of dealing with the county. I’ve submitted payment for invoices and received nothing from the county for months upon months, and was only paid after strict item-by-item scrutiny.”

 

RUSHING__LEY___HARMER_AND_DEMARSH

OTHER SERIOUS ISSUES WITH THE $19.5 MILLION NO BID CONTRACT

 

1.  Sarasota County officials gave the go ahead to Benderson without demanding a requirement to post a performance bond on work accomplished by vendors which he selected to use at his rowing facility. This failure on the part of Sarasota County officials to require Benderson to post a performance bond has exposed Sarasota County to multi-million dollar lawsuits, which companies such as Dredge America can pursue for nonpayment of contractual agreements.

2.  The selection process that Benderson has been allowed to use without supervision of the Sarasota County Procurement/Purchasing Department and with the full approval of Sarasota County officials is outrageous. If the Procurement/Purchasing Department is not supervising Benderson’s selection committee, what proof is there that Benderson is operating in the Sunshine with regard to the selection, interviewing and hiring of contractors and consultants?

3.  Most importantly, regarding Dredge America’s legal dispute with Benderson, which has already been exposed through public records in the possession of THE SARASOTA PHOENIX— who in Sarasota County government is auditing how the $19.5 million in public money being distributed by Benderson? 

4.  Benderson has been withholding $529,490 for over a year in public funds that Sarasota County officials authorized Benderson to pay Dredge America for work done on his $70 million rowing facility.

5.  Serious issues exist concerning how Sarasota County officials are monitoring the way Benderson is billing the county for the 16% of the $19.5 million contract which Benderson was granted to manage the construction of the rowing facility. 

6.  How is the Randy Benderson Rowing Park Project being financially administered? Were the bond funds put on deposit with Benderson upfront? Or are they reimbursed using routine (monthly, quarterly) invoices?

7.  If so, is the Sarasota County clerk’s office, under the direction of Karen Rushing, confirming that subcontractor invoices are actually paid by Benderson before they are invoiced to the county?

8.  What are the contractual provisions in the agreement between the county and Benderson that insulate the county from exposure or liability?

9.  Are indemnification and warranty clauses boiler-plate for these contracts? If they are not included, how did the Sarasota County clerk’s office miss or allow this oversight?

10. How is the “project management” (no bid) contract invoiced and paid out by the county to Benderson?  How did Rushing’s office let this go out with no competitive bidding?

Again, it’s apparent that Sarasota County officials were not carefully examining the invoices Benderson was submitting to them for payment and that was a serious problem. In addition, did Benderson hold back funds that Sarasota County officials have authorized to compensate other vendors for work they believe is completed in addition to Dredge America?

NEXT

 

PART II

 

BLACKKETTER FIRING BY BENDERSON CANNOT COVER UP SCANDALOUS ILLEGAL BENDERSON SCAM

 

Posted in Breaking News, Politics, Regional / Local News, Regional / Local Politics

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