Law Enforcement Sleeps/Co. Corruption is Institutionalized

PART I

AS LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT SLEEPS SARASOTA COUNTY CORRUPTION WAS AND IS INSTITUTIONALIZED

By JON SUSCE

As the Godfather of a corrupt Sarasota County government, Pat Neal along with his cronies— Rex Jensen, Carlos Beruff, Randy Benderson and James Gabbert— joined by a collection of contractors like David Sessions, Jon Swift and John Cox; and topped off by various rainmaker land use attorneys like Michael Furen, Dan Bailey and David Merrill III, altogether have made millions corrupting the political process in Sarasota.

Meanwhile, under the direction of Sarasota County Administrator Jim Ley and the Sarasota County Commission, local law enforcement agencies, including the local F.B.I office, buried their heads in the sand.

After ignoring for years complaints from concerned citizens over a Sarasota County government wallowing in various potential illegal indiscretions, the powers that be finally got their heads out of the sand when a Sarasota County official was arrested and convicted for taking bribes in 2011, and forced to investigate corruption in Sarasota County Government under the direction of Sarasota County Administrator Jim Ley and the Sarasota County Commissioners. Again, it was this incident that forced these public officials— that Neal and his cronies buy like apples at Publix— to conduct various investigations.
NO INDICTMENTS ONLY SLAPS ON WRISTS

Unfortunately all that came out of the investigations were slight bruises on the wrists of those who should have been indicted for serious crimes. Equally unfortunate is that the heads of various law enforcement agencies, and other county agencies, gave assurance to the public that they were not being ripped off, and then stuck their heads back in the sand.

 

Case in point, Neal and his cronies continue their million dollar “Pay to Play” scams corrupting Sarasota County Government under the direction of Sarasota County Administrator Tom Harmer and Sarasota County Commissioners, who are bought by the Neal gang for pennies on the dollar.

QUESTIONS UNANSWERED

Why did it take an arrest in West Palm Beach for local law enforcement agencies to investigate the blatant corruption in Sarasota County Government? Why wasn’t the local F.B.I. operation, under the direction of Leo Martinez, doing anything while Ley and his minions, with the tacit approval of Sarasota County Commissioners, were corrupting Sarasota County? Why did Martinez not move forward in seeking federal indictments, and allowed the statute of limitations to expire on blatant and obvious illegalities?

Equally important, why after numerous investigations by local law enforcement agencies, and after the Sarasota County Clerk of Courts found obvious and outrageous examples of corruption taking place in Sarasota, was no one was arrested; instead dismissing the corruption on a few “rotten apples” in Sarasota County Government?

Why was Ley given a golden parachute of $265,000 to leave town and now is back working for Gary Kompothecras, who is known to be one of Neal’s cronies,also busy corrupting Sarasota County? Why is Dave Bullock, who was Ley’s No. 1 assistant, allowed to land on his feet as City Manager of Longboat Key? Why was Sarasota County lead Attorney, Steven DeMarsh—who did absolutely nothing while Ley managed a thoroughly corrupt Sarasota County Government— not run out of town like Ley?

Why are the Sarasota County Commissioners, who likewise did absolutely nothing as corruption flourished around them under Ley (and now Harmer), who let Neal and his cronies continue to rip off  Sarasota taxpayers with their million dollar “Pay to Play” scams, not brought before grand juries and facing indictments as Ley and other corrupt Sarasota County officials should be?

Why was Martinez, while awaiting retirement from the F.B.I., sitting around on his hands doing nothing while corruption engulfed Sarasota County Government? Martinez is now walking the streets as a private investigator, getting involved with a Sarasota County Sheriff detective, to take down an individual for a client in a very questionable arrest.

CORRUPT POLITICAL OFFICIALS TAKE HEADS

OUT OF SAND ONLY AFTER ARREST IN WEST PALM BEACH

For example, only when a minor Sarasota County official, Rodney Jones, was arrested in West Palm Beach and charged for taking bribes from a company that performed $5.1 million in work for Sarasota County without a competitive bid, did various local investigations proceed revealing Sarasota County, under the direction of Ley, as one of the most corrupt county governments in Florida.  It was only as a result of the Jones arrest in West Palm Beach that investigations were initiated by appropriate local law enforcement agencies.

At the time The West Palm Beach Post reported on the arrest of a Sarasota County employee for taking bribes, suggesting Sarasota County Government might have a problem.  A review of records has now revealed that Sarasota County managers and local law enforcement agencies had a host of warning signs that purchasing practices were being broken, leaving the county vulnerable to fraud.

For example, starting in 2007, a string of problems — some discovered publicly, others behind the scenes — raised serious questions about how Ley and his staff oversaw the spending of millions of dollars per year in taxpayer money, in ways which financially benefited major multimillion developers like Neal and his cronies.

EXAMPLES OF A MISMANAGED CORRUPT COUNTY GOVERNMENT
The following are a few of examples a mismanaged, corrupt Sarasota County Government under Ley’s direction, prior to the Jones arrest in West Palm Beach.  These incidents, that gave clear evidence of a corrupt political system, were swept under the table by local law enforcement agencies and various Sarasota County agencies whose job was to monitor corrupt practices:

1. Judges voided a $2.5 million software contract in early 2008 because the county violated its own spending rules.

2. That same year, the first of what was to be three audits showed that employees were misusing county-issued credit cards.

3. In 2010, the county’s director of community services was reassigned to keep him away from baseball spring-training projects because he had helped a friend land a $500,000 construction contract.

4. Outside audits spotted troubling lapses in the county’s purchasing process, including 17 MILLION dollars worth of annual credit card spending that was left open to waste and fraud.

5. Numerous complaints concerning how Ley and his staff were mismanaging the spending of 300 MILLION dollars a year in taxpayer money on contracts for road work, sewers and other such projects.

PATTERSON: “INVESTIGATION NOT WARRANTED”