By Jon Susce
jsusce @ msn.com
Randy Benderson finally understands he has a legal dilemma after three and one half years of legal maneuvering regarding the lawsuit brought by Hugh Culverhouse, Jr. against developers Benderson and Henry Rodriguez alleging they conspired with Sarasota County to defraud Culverhouse out of millions of dollars.
DUBENSKY DENIES BENDERSON’S MOTION TO DISMISS
A month ago, while sitting next to his attorney, Ed Vogler, Benderson was highly embarrassed as Judge Peter Dubensky turned down NINE motions by Vogler to dismiss Culverhouse’s suit against him. Benderson subsequently dumped Vogler.
In order to get on an equal legal playing field with the Culverhouse legal team led by Steven Hutton, who is one of the most respected legal minds in Sarasota County and beyond, Benderson hired a prominent local litigator and mediator, Steven Chase.
BENDERSON REPLACES VOGLER WITH CHASE
Benderson finally got it that Vogler, who has been the attorney representing him in the lawsuit
with Culverhouse and in other legal matters, is no match for Culverhouse’s legal representation. Chase is an excellent lawyer, but Benderson’s big problem is that he wouldn’t hire an outsider until seven weeks before trial. The case would have had a substantial attorney to guide Benderson if Chase had been hired back in 2011.
Now there are entire file cabinets full of sunshine statute requests going back to early 2011 including many documents demonstrating Benderson’s control over the Sarasota County Commission in building the Cattleman Extension, Benderson Rowing Park and many other multi-million dollar projects approved and publicly funded by the Board of County Commissioners.
Chase cannot begin to understand the degree to which Benderson controlled every Sarasota County commissioner, Henry Rodriquez, former County Administrator Jim Ley and his assistant Dave Bullock, and political operatives such as convicted felon Bob Waechter, Eric Robinson and Mac Stevenson. The tangled web is too extensive to grasp; there isn’t enough time.
Chase may be equal to Hutton in legal expertise, but Benderson was too insecure to hire him and chose instead to hide behind Vogler’s lies until now, less than six weeks before the trial is to begin. Chase has a sharp legal mind, plays his politics in the middle of the road and can find himself at home with either major political persuasion. For example, Chase contributed to conservative Republican candidate Mitt Romney in his run for president, while contributing to liberal Democrat Christine Jennings in her campaign against U.S Congressman Vern Buchanan.
CHASE BEING EXPERT CERTIFIED ARBITRATOR DOESN’T HELP BENDERSON
Unfortunately for Benderson, Chase was hired to settle this case out of court, not try it. Chase is an expert certified arbitrator and he wants to negotiate a settlement which will be a problem for Benderson. Apparently, Benderson fails to understand that Culverhouse is going to trial in January just as he did against the IRS and twice against the Department of Justice in condemnation cases.
Another problem for Benderson is that he fails to understand the differences in legal and strategic expertise between Hutton and Chase, an observation which seems to have eluded Benderson as he recently parachuted into Sarasota from Buffalo.
Consider, for example, the fraud, conspiracy and breach of contract verdicts associated with the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and its opulent properties during a five-week highly publicized trial in 2008 which was decided by a jury of six awarding tens of millions of
In that lawsuit, Kevin Daves, who was the principal in Core Construction, hired Culverhouse attorney Steven Hutton. The jury awarded Daves $32 million. In the same lawsuit against the Ritz Carleton, Chase represented N.J. Olivieri. Olivieri received $1.3 million in a negotiated settlement put together by Chase.
Evidently, it is not apparent to Benderson, that although Hutton and Chase are both skilled local attorneys, Hutton was and is an attorney that is hired to take no prisoners and proceed to trial. On the other hand, Chase is an attorney who negotiates settlements.
RANDY BENDERSON IS NO NATE BENDERSON
As the Culverhouse lawsuit proceeds and more is revealed in discovery, Randy Benderson will realize he is not playing in the same major league as his father, the late Nate Benderson, who preferred to maintain a low profile in his various business dealings while getting his way with various politicians. Randy Benderson, on the other hand, openly exhibits how he controls local politicians in Sarasota and Manatee Counties.
Benderson must believe that he not only can control Sarasota County Commissioners on the cheap, but Judge Dubensky and Culverhouse as well. Benderson gave evidence of that when he showed up in Judge Dubensky’s courtroom last month seeking to have Culverhouse’s lawsuit dropped. Benderson must have thought Dubensky would be impressed by his august presence and that this transplant from Buffalo, who buys and sells politicians for pennies, would prevail in Sarasota as well.
BENDERSON IN DENIAL
Benderson has to be in denial if he fancies that Culverhouse is not going to trial in January and that he can negotiate a last minute settlement. The jury will settle the matter in a Sarasota courthouse presided over by Judge Dubensky. Along the same lines, is it lost on Benderson that Hutton has been working on this case for three and one half years, while Chase has little more than one month before this case goes to trial in January? Ever since Culverhouse brought the lawsuit against Benderson alleging that Benderson and Rodriquez conspired with Sarasota County officials to defraud him out of millions, Benderson has been aching to negotiate a settlement.
BENDERSON SINGING WRONG BEATLES SONG
Looking back, what is the first thing Vogler said when Benderson was sued? “Let’s have Benderson and Culverhouse meet with Hutton and Vogler as the Beatles sing: ‘WE Can Work It Out.’” Now it’s sounding more like “I’m a Loser.”
NOW Benderson hires Chase, who is a politically well-connected civil gentleman from the good old boy Sarasota establishment, a member of the local circuit court club and gifted with a legal mind. NOW with Chase on board as his legal counsel, what is Benderson’s latest offer? Get Hutton and Chase to sit with Benderson and Culverhouse and sing another rendition of the Beatles song: “We Can Work It Out.”
Unfortunately for Benderson, Culverhouse apparently is convinced that a jury in January will settle the lawsuit and not an arbitrator like Chase or a corrupt Sarasota County Commission.
IS BENDERSON TOO ARROGANT OR CAN’T PART WITH MONEY
By the way, one thing Benderson has never said to Culverhouse was: I will pay you for your damages, let’s agree on the amount. Evidently, Benderson is too arrogant or can’t part with his money, or both. Hopefully, Chase is getting paid a very large retainer.