Sarasota County “Pay to Play” Agenda

Sarasota County Politicians Corrupt

“Pay To Play” Agenda

By Jon Susce

Part I

Sarasota County Commission & Villages Of Manasota Beach Development



Recently AD Morgan Construction Company was approved by a Sarasota County School Board selection team to be awarded the $121 million dollar contract to build the technical High School in North Port, FL.  Nevertheless, Sarasota County Superintendent of  Schools,  Lori White recommended, and the Sarasota County School Board voted 4-1, to award the contract to Willis Smith Construction Company, despite the fact That the AD Morgan Construction came in with a bid at $4 million less.

Rebecca Smith

CEO of AD Morgan, Rebecca Smith called the decision a “Pay to Play” and “Stealing in the Sunshine” decision by White and the School Board committee members, Shirley Brown, Caroline Zucker, Jane Goodwin and Frank Kovack .

What Smith was alluding to in calling the contract awarded to Willis Smith Construction a “Pay to Play and “Stealing in the Sunshine” decision is that unless you’re a member of the “good ol’ boy” network, which controls Sarasota County Government, and unless you contribute to Sarasota County School Board members, you receive no contracts.

Criminal Enterprise Corrupting
 Sarasota County Government




The  criminal enterprise “Pay to Play” system corrupting Sarasota County Government has made itself known over the years in many ways, and one of the most recent examples is the approval by the Sarasota County  Commission of the Villages of Manasota Beach residential project in Englewood.

This development project had local high priced, “rainmaker” attorney and President of the Argus Foundation, William Merrill III leading a trio that includes Merrill, James Gabbert and Robert “Bo” Medred.

This “Pay to Play/Stealing in the Sunshine”project came before the Sarasota County Commission on June 2, 2015 with Merrill speaking on behalf of the other two developers, “Bo” Medred and Gabbert. On that date, Merrill sought and received unanimous approval of a 1,500 home multi-million dollar project in Englewood, which will  have 1,563 residents on 782 acres.

Developers Paying To Play


Just as you will find William Sessions, President of Willis Smith Construction Company contributing thousands of dollars over the years to the campaigns of the Sarasota County School Board in  “Paying to Play,” you will find Merrill, Medred and Gabbert “Paying to Play” by pumping thousands of dollars into the campaign coffers of the Sarasota County Commissioners who voted approval of the Merrill-Medred-Gabbert proposal.

For example you will find Merrill, his wife, and a LLC called BMG THREE, whose principal is Merrill, pumping major contributions into various Sarasota County Commissioners’, past and present, political campaigns.

Merrill And Gabbert Involved
With Robinson Political Pac

robinsonOne of the most significant campaign contributions made by Merrill was to a “Making A Better Tomorrow” Pac managed by Eric Robinson, who is the husband of Sarasota County Commissioner Christine Robinson, and is  nothing more than a “bag man” for those who control Sarasota County Government.

Contributors To Robinson Managed “Making A Better Tomorrow” Pac

$5,000 from a Merrill LLC (BMG THREE LLC).

$10,000 from a Gabbert Investment Company (Gabbert Investment Group)

$10,000 from a Carlos Beruff LLC (Medallion Gulf Coast LLC).

$10,000 from a Gary Kompothecras LLC (Bay Coast LLC).

$20,000 from four Randy Benderson LLC (Cocoplum  LLC, Cypress Woods LLC,  Promenade Associates LLC and Sipoc LLC).

Contributions to this and other Robinson managed Pac find their way into Sarasota County Commissioners and other politicians political campaigns.

$140,000 Consulting Fee For Robinson’s

ecrobinsonIn addition, another PAC managed by Eric Robinson called Citizens Have Rights funneled $20,000 into the Making A Better Tomorrow, which is a Pac that paid Eric Robinson and his wife, Sarasota County Commissioner Christine Robinson $140,000 for consulting services. (MORE ABOUT THIS ROBINSON PAC IN AN UPCOMING SARASOTA PHOENIX  ARTICLE).

By the way, these gangsters attempt to  hide their identity by using this and other LLCs, but the addresses on the LLC give these “wise guys/clowns” away.

Merrill is Involved With Kolter Land Partners


The Robinson managed Making A Better Tomorrow Pac also received a $10,000 contribution from Kolter Land Partners (KLP) LLC. The Kolter Group, headquartered in Palm Beach County is a diversified real estate development and investment firm that has invested in projects with expected value in excess of $12 billion. KLP has contributed thousands of dollars to numerous Robinson managed PAC’s that find their way into Sarasota and Manatee politicians campaigns.

Merrill “Rainmaker” For Kolter Land Partners


Merrill has used his “rainmaking” skills in Manatee County representing KLP in a land deal (Trevesta). For example, despite  a recommendation of denial from the Manatee County Planning Commission, a petition in opposition from hundreds of nearby residents and negative comments from several of those residents during a public hearing, Merrill “persuaded” the gangster controlled Manatee County Commissioners to vote a 5-2  approval of the project. Carol Whitmore, Vanessa Baugh, Betsy Benac, John Chappie and Larry Bustle supported the mixed-use proposal with Robin DeSabatino and Charles Smith voting against the proposal.

Merrill Involved With Beruff Foxfire
Housing Proposal On A Dump Site


Merrill was involved in a failed to “Pay to Play” and “Ste aling in the Sunshine” proposal in 2013 when a group that he was involved with (as a “rainmaker” attorney) failed in their attempt to build homes on a former contaminated Foxfire dump site.  At the time, Merrill’s group neglected to inform the predecessors of the present county commission that there were serious problems with the site and produced no evidence to the contrary. The deal was so bad that even Merrill and the developer’s (at that time Milton Spencer & A.J. Olivieri ) lackeys on the Sarasota County Commission turned it down, despite numerous attempts to get it approved.

By the way, former Commissioner Nora Patterson recused herself from this disgraceful attempt to build on a former dump site on the former Foxfire golf course because Spencer and Olivieri were clients of her husband, who is another high priced “rainmaking” attorney, John Patterson.

What is an incredible example of how this present Sarasota County Commission is even more deeply corrupt than its predecessor, with Paul Caragiulo and Al Maio now on the commission and continuing the “Pay to Play” corruption agenda, is that the present Sarasota County Commission has now approved a Beruff’s proposal to build homes on the former contaminated dump site.

Merrill, whose “pretty boy” looks make him more qualified to be a model for GQ Magazine than a huckster for developers like Beruff, Spencer and Oliveri, once again became the “rainmaker” and “persuaded” the Sarasota County Commission to approve Beruff plans to build homes on this former dump site that was previously rejected. Merrill had no problem representing another “wise guy,” Beruff in his plans to build homes on this contaminated former garbage dump.

(More about this Foxfire-Beruff-Merrill, “Pay to Play”/”Stealing in the Sunshine” residential proposal approved by the Sarasota County Commission in an upcoming SARASOTA PHOENIX  article).



Merrill’s Naming Robinson Executive Director Of Argus Is Contemptible And A Major Conflict Of Interest

mrobinsonOne of the county commissioners that Merrill came before to gain approval for both the multi-million dollar Foxfire and Englewood projects was Commissioner Christine Robinson.  Merrill, as President of the Argus Foundation had publicly stated that Commissioner Robinson’s appointment as Executive Director of Argus would cause no conflict of interest.

Can there be any doubt that votes by Robinson to approve Merrill’s projects, in which Merrill is financially involved, confirm that this is a complete and utter conflict of interest and ends any credible pretense that Robinson is anything more than a Sarasota County Commissioner fully beholden to the development interests of Merrill and those individuals connected to Merrill, who control the Argus Foundation.


Gabbert Another “Pay To Play”
Participant In Englewood Project

One of the partners in the Englewood project, Gabbert is a retired Sarasota County firefighter and a past co-owner of Meyer & Gabbert Excavating Contractors, Inc., which is a recycling operation that employed over 100 people.  Gabbert sold this company in 2006 for millions of dollars, which he has invested in land tracts east of U.S Interstate I-75.

Unfortunately, Gabbert has begun to use the tactics of his new developer cronies, which is, among other corrupting campaign finance schemes, a tactic subverting a Sarasota County finance ordinance that limits one $200 contribution per entity, per candidate.


For example, Gabbert gave twenty-one, $200 contributions to Commissioner Caragiulo and eleven to Maio in order to “Pay to Play” with his partners (Merrill and Medred) to gain approval of this multi-million dollar Englewood project.

By supporting the failed opera singer, Caragiulo, Gabbert made a mockery of the local campaign finance reform ordinance by using various LLCs, that he controls, to contribute to Caragiulo’s campaign for county commissioner.

For example, in the Republican primary in August of 2014 Gabbert used the following LLCs to funnel money into Caragiulo’s  campaign:









Gabbert then doubled up on Caragiulo in the final election in November of 2014 once again with his LLC listed below:









Gabbert used the same LLC to funnel the eleven, $200 contributions into Maio’s campaign.

In addition, Gabbert as mentioned above, joined Benderson, Neal, and Merrill in contributing $10,000 to Commissioner Christine Robinson’s husband managed MAKING A BETTER TOMORROW PAC and other Robinson managed PAC’s.


Gabbert Makes Mockery Of Charter
Review Board That He Serves On


What makes Gabbert’s mockery of campaign finance regulations (which place a limit of $200 contributions per entity) even more disgraceful is that Gabbert, who was  appointed by Governor Rick Scott to the Sarasota County Charter Review, sits on the same Board that put the proposal to limit contributions to one, $200 contribution per entity, which Sarasota County voters approved.

Medred Is Third MEMBER Of The “Pay To Play”
Trio Involved In Englewood Project

The third member of this “Pay to  Play” trio involved with this multi-million dollar Englewood project is “Bo” Medred, who is another “rainmaker” like Merrill, who makes deals happen with local politicians.  Following Merrill and Gabbert corrupt campaign finance tactics, Medred continued the “Pay to Play” scrip by funneling campaign contributions to Sarasota County Commissioners.

Not only did Medred contribute to Maio’s campaign and other Sarasota County Commissioners, “Bo” made the following statement on a Maio campaign brochure distributed throughout Sarasota County during Maio’s County Commission election campaign against Lourdes Ramirez:

“For the past 25 years that I have known Al, he has always involved himself in making Sarasota the special place that it is through service and volunteering on various civic and county advisory boards. It has been evident through that service that he cares about our community and people in it. I am supporting Al in his county commission race because of his longtime commitment to the county, his blue collar work ethic and the need for county commissioners who understand the fiscal responsibility and discipline that such a position requires.”

Medred-Maio-Waechter Connection


In addition, there are various email exchanges involving Medred, Sarasota County officials, and convicted election fraud felon, Bob Waechter successfully lobbying Sarasota County officials.  Waechter, who is Medred’s mentor, was the individual caught on video in an illegal act attempting to destroy the political career of Maio’s opponent (Lourdes Ramirez) during her run for county commissioner.

The approval of the Villages of Manasota Beach by the Sarasota County Commission is a clear example of what Rebecca Smith of AD Morgan Construction Company describes as the “Pay to Play” and “Stealing in the Daylight” deals going on at the Sarasota County School Board.


In addition, Commissioner Robinson’s vote of approval for the Englewood project, through which the President of Argus (Merrill) gains financially, makes Commissioner Robinson’s appointment as Executive Director to Argus and subsequent rubber stamp approval granted by County Attorney Steven DeMarsh (asserting there is NO conflict of interest) with Robinson’s appointment as Executive Director of Argus, demonstrates a clear cut example of a continuing corruption trend in Sarasota County Government.

If the appointment of Commissioner Christine Robinson as Executive Director of Argus; the Merrill-Gabbert-Medred use of campaign contributions to “Pay to Play”; and Eric Robinson’s documented funneling of hundreds of thousands of campaign contributions through his various PAC’s and LLC’s in attempting to hide the identity of those corrupting the local political process, doesn’t illustrate how shamefully corrupt Sarasota has become under the control of multi-million dollar developers like Benderson, Neal, Beruff, Jensen, Gabbert and their soul mates —nothing will.

As usual, attempts to get comments from those individuals mentioned in this article, who are corrupting Sarasota County generate no response—they only talk to their mouthpieces at the Sarasota Herald Tribune and Sarasota Observer.

Sarasota County Politicians Corrupt

“Pay To Play” Agenda
Part II

The Sarasota County Commission And Foxfire Development

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

Leave a Reply