Benderson’s Attempt To Turn A Playgroud/Park Into A Parking Lot Fails

By Jon Susce

Randy BendersonLarry FeinbergIf anyone wanted to see a prime example of how the present Sarasota City Commission differs from the Sarasota County Commission, who are controlled by major campaign finance contributions from Randy Benderson and his million-dollar developer cronies, they should have been at the recent Sarasota City Commission meeting where Benderson official Larry Feinberg was told that Benderson is not going to turn a playground and park into a parking lot.

If anyone had any doubt regarding how Randy Benderson allows his representatives to deal with public officials in an outrageous, scandalous fashion, they need to listen to how City of Sarasota attorney Bob Fournier candidly described the behavior of Benderson official, Larry Feinberg in a meeting between City of Sarasota staff and Feinberg on January 23, 2015.

Fournier described Feinberg’s outrageous behavior at a subsequent City of Sarasota commission meeting on February 3, 2015 held to discuss the proposed Benderson Project on Beneva and Fruitville.

Fournier: “Nobody Says No To Benderson”

This is how Fournier described Fineberg’s behavior with the City staff: “indignant, confrontational and intimidating.” Fournier added that Feinberg gave the impression “that nobody says no to Benderson.” Fournier further described the Benderson approach to the city as, “once they get their foot in the door they take down the hinges.”

Bob Fournier City of Sarasota AttorneyFournier: “Feinberg Acted More Like A Gangster Than A Developer”

At the same City of Sarasota commission meeting, Fournier detailed Feinberg’s aggressive behavior when negotiating behind-the-scenes, back room discussions aimed at pressuring to get Benderson what he needs.  Fournier stated that never in his 35 years of dealing with developers, he has never witnessed behavior like Feinberg exhibited. Fournier stated that the Benderson reprsenative “acted more like a gangster than a developer.”Sarasota City officials attending the January 23rd meeting along with Feinberg and Fournier included Deputy Sarasota City Manager, Marlon Brown, Mary Tucker, and Tim Litchet.  All city officials at that meeting agreed with Fournier’s assessment of Feinberg’s behavior.

Benderson Officials: “Indignant, Confrontational & Intimidating”

What is so refreshing in Fournier’s presentation is how he publicly described the Benderson approach to dealing with local public officials and vendors. Fournier showed no fear in taking on Benderson, in contrast to those who are apprehensive and fearful to speak out about the way Benderson officials conduct themselves and act so “indignant, confrontational and intimidating.”

Sarasota City Commissioners Cannot Be Bought–Not So County Commissioners

Willie Shaw City of Sarasota Commissioner

Shaw

Stan Zimmerman City of Sarasota Commissioner

Zimmerman

Susan Chapman City of Sarasota Commissioner

Chapman

Eileen Normile City of Sarasota Commissioner

Normile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fournier’s candid assessment of the Benderson approach in dealing with public officials is no doubt fortressed by the present make-up of the Sarasota City Commission, as opposed to the Sarasota County Commission. No one can find thousands of Benderson dollars in campaign finance reports of Sarasota City Commissioners like Susan Chapman, Willie Shaw, Eileen Normile, and Stan Zimmerman or huge political signs endorsing the candidacy of the present Sarasota City Commissioners on numerous Benderson properties.

 

Sarasota County Commissioner CaragiuloSarasota County Commissioner CaragiuloNora Patterson Former County Commissioner

Christine Robinson Sarasota County CommissionerCharles Hine Sarasota County CommissionerAl Maio Sarasota County Commissioner

This certainly can’t be said of past and present Sarasota County Commissioners Paul Caragiulo, Al Maio, Charles Hines, Christine Robinson, Carolyn Mason, Joe Barbetta and Nora Patterson.

For example, using the numerous LLC’s that Benderson controls, he circumvents the $200 limit per entity with multiple $200 contributions to Benderson-backed candidates from his various LLC’s.

Benderson has given the following to Sarasota County Commissioners: Carolyn Mason: (6) $200 contributions, Commissioner Joe Barbetta (19) $200 contributions, Commissioner Christine Robinson (5) $200 contributions and Commissioner Nora Patterson (5) $200 contributions.

Benderson made a complete mockery of Sarasota County campaign finance ordinances in the 2012 election cycle by contributing (40) $200 contributions to newly elected Sarasota County Commissioner Charles Hines, all with a 570 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, N.Y address. In addition, Benderson made another (10) $200 contributions to Charles Hines with a 7978 Cooper Creek, Sarasota address.

Randy Benderson

Benderson

Eric RobinsonBob Waechter

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coupled together with those campaign contributions, Benderson uses local political operatives like Eric Robinson and convicted felon, Bob Waechter (who was found guilty of election fraud) as his “Bag Men” in moving thousands of dollars from the various PAC’s they manage with the intention of putting Sarasota County Commissioners into his pockets. In 2010 Benderson gave $5,000 oo a Waechter PAC, “Sarasota Demands Accountability,” which raised $42,000 for the re-election of Commissioner Nora Patterson. In 2012, Benderson gave $2,000 to the same Waechter PAC that raised $22,000 for Waechter’s hand-picked candidates for political office. In 2012, Benderson also gave $10,000 to an Eric Robinson PAC called “Citizens Have Rights,” which raised $55,000 for the Waechter/Robinson Political Machine.Local Vendors Fear BendersonLocal vendors are naturally apprehensive in approaching public officials to complain about Benderson’s intimidation tactics because it is clearly understood that Benderson has bought and sold Sarasota county politicians, especially the Sarasota County Commissioners.

Local Vendors Fear Sarasota County Government

Local vendors are naturally apprehensive in approaching public officials to complain about Benderson’s intimidation tactics because it is clearly understood that Benderson has bought and sold Sarasota county politicians, especially the Sarasota County Commissioners.

Benderson Has County Commissioners In His Pocket

For example, in a sworn deposition involving his lawsuit filed against Randy Benderson, Hugh Culverhouse Jr. gave testimony that Randy Benderson, in the presence of others at a meeting of interested parties involving the EEZ Project in Osprey, stated that it would be to Culverhouse’s benefit to go along with his plan to decrease Culverhouse’s participation in EEZ.  Culverhouse went on to say in his deposition that Benderson’s assessment was based on the fact that he (Randy Benderson) had three Sarasota County Commissioner votes in his pocket.

In his sworn deposition, James Paulmann, who was one of those present at that meeting, gives clear evidence in support of Culverhouse’s allegation. According to Paulmann, Benderson was “adamant” that Culverhouse sign the agreement and when Culverhouse objected, Paulmann testified, “I recall Mr. Benderson holding up three fingers and saying ‘I got the votes’.” Paulmann has for more than 30 years been involved in private and public sector planning and has been responsible for coordination of master planning and entitlement for large-scale communities and major commercial projects.

In the same lawsuit filed against Benderson, Culverhouse is alleging that Randy Benderson conspired with Sarasota County officials, which include Sarasota County Commissioners, to essentially defraud Culverhouse out of millions of dollars in public funds.

Local Vendors Fear Sarasota County Government

Local vendors are naturally apprehensive in approaching public officials to complain about Benderson’s intimidation tactics because it is clearly understood that Benderson has bought and sold Sarasota county politicians, especially the Sarasota County Commissioners.

Sarasota City Commission Not For Sale

It was certainly crystal clear that Randy Benderson does not have any Sarasota City Commissioner “in his pocket.” If anyone wanted to see a prime example of that assessment and observe how the present Sarasota City Commission differs from the Sarasota County Commission, they should have been at the recent Sarasota City Commission meeting on 2/3/15.

Feinberg was essentially informed by the City Commission to take a message back to Benderson that City Hall is not for sale. The message was quite clear: Benderson was not going to buy Sarasota City Commissioners with $200 campaign contributions from his 50-60 LLC’s or by placing their political signs at his Mall on University Parkway or the various other properties he controls in Sarasota.

Feinberg was also told in so many words by various Sarasota City Commissioners that Benderson is not going to turn a park and playground into a parking lot. 

Chapman & Fournier A Breath Of Fresh Air At City Hall

Susan Chapman City of Sarasota CommissionerBenderson should have been paying attention a few months ago when the attorney for a multi-million dollar real estate “flipper” from Jacksonville wanted to go ahead with a sweetheart deal reached back in 2006 between a now bankrupt Irish American group and the City of Sarasota.

Just as Commissioner Chapman “sliced and diced” a local rainmaker attorney, Charles Bailey II a few months ago, so did Chapman and Fournier do likewise to Feinberg. Chapman and Fournier sent a message to Benderson that the “For Sale” sign at City Hall has been taken down.

The message sent by the present Sarasota City Commission and Fournier was that Feinberg should center his attention on his multi-million dollar urban sprawl developments across town at Sarasota County Government, as a fellow Benderson official, Todd Mathes does so successfully with the Sarasota County Commissioners.

Atwell Can’t Cover Up Past Support of Benderson Project

atwellOne aspect of the February 3rdmeeting at City Hall involved Sarasota City Commissioner, Suzanne Atwell and her attempt to distance herself from a vote she had cast, along with former Sarasota City Commissioners, Terry Turner and Paul Caragiulo, to sell public property to Benderson, despite a competing offer from a Miami-based developer to purchase it for another mixed-use development at twice the price.

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

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