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Nancy Smith

Joe Negron's GEO Gig: A Fabulously Slimy Quid Pro Quo?

March 16, 2019 - 9:00am
Joe Negron's escape from the Florida Legislature to a private fortune he negotiated on the taxpayers' dime is out in the open now. Reporter Matt Dixon laid it out nicely for us in Friday's POLITICO Florida.
 
Because of redistricting, the former Senate president could have run for another term in the Legislature. The fact he chose not to is no crime. But to hear Negron tell it, so imbued with a sense of righteous principle was he, he just couldn't burden the good people of Florida any longer.
 
“I have always been a big believer in term limits,” he said in a written statement last May. “... I believe in a citizen Legislature where women and men from all walks of life serve for a reasonable period of time and then return to the private sector.” What a guy.
 
Except, now we find opportunity may have knocked a little earlier than Negron admits. GEO Group, the private prisons people, announced on Nov. 29, same month he left the Senate presidency, that they'd hired him as general counsel.
 
I Beg to DifferHow good a deal was it? 
 
Negron got a two-year contract out of the gate, but it includes options for a “continuous ‘rolling’ two-year term until the age of 67 years,” according to the quarterly report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission."
 
Last December when POLITICO reported Negron’s hire, GEO would not discuss terms of the employment agreement. Negron replaced John Bulfin, who had an annual salary of just over $500,000 and an overall compensation package worth $2.5 million.
 
Here's the rub POLITICO's Dixon points out: The Senate president was a big part of framing the current state budget, in which lawmakers sunk a $4 million increase in funding into companies that operate Florida's private prisons. GEO Group operates five. 
 
Reports Dixon, "Negron also helped secure $2.9 million in last year’s budget for GEO’s Continuum of Care, the provider’s offender rehabilitation program. The money allowed GEO Group to expand the program to facilities beyond Jackson County’s Graceville Correctional Institution, which had been the only one to offer it."
 
It runs deeper than GEO's 2018 quidding for Negron's quoing. GEO was actually pushing the Senate president-to-be two and three years earlier. On Aug. 15, 2016, I wrote, "GEO, second largest private prison vendor in the country, contributed $288,000 to the Negrons during this election cycle -- more than a quarter million dollars."
 
Of the $288,000, some $43,000 went to the (unsuccessful) District 18 congressional campaign of Rebecca Negron on two separate days in 2015 and 2016. On June 22, 2016, presumably to please Negron, GEO lavished another $50,000 on the super PAC that supported her, Conservative Congress Now!
 
That was an important time for Boca Raton-based GEO Group. At least one of its five contracts, for Moore Haven Correctional Facility, was due to be awarded through open competitive bid processes, through the Florida Department of Management Services, during Negron's presidency. 
 
Guess what company won the bid?
 
On Aug. 9, 2016, The Miami Herald reported GEO had parsed out $628,500 to mostly Republican candidates and committees. Which, by the way, included $150,000 to the Florida Republican Senatorial Committee, the group that coordinated GOP state Senate races -- and that Negron controlled.
 
Taking contributions from entities with business before the Legislature is one thing. It's how sausage is made in every statehouse in the land. But systematically helping those firms so you can sign on with them later, so you can win a ticket to Millionaire's Row? Unconscienable and criminal and, frankly, disgusting. Not easy to prove, I admit. But in the case of Joe Negron, a powerful president of the Florida Senate, somebody ought to try. For the integrity of the office, if nothing else.
 
Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

Comments

If Nancy Smith is criticizing Joe, it must be even WORSE than I thought. When many of us in Martin County refused to join in the canonization of Joe Negron as our "river savior" we were severely criticized. I do believe that we have been vindicated , he the usual dishonest politician who used his public office for his own greed and monetary benefits and tried to push his wife on us as well...thank goodness she lost. He wants to privatize prisons she wants to privatize education and destroy our public schools....a real great couple. Now, Nancy Smith revisit your opinion of the Lakepoint Maggy Murchalla lawsuit. You were wrong about Negron, could you be wrong about Lakepoint?

Well this sure helps to explain why the pressure was on to oust Latvala as Budget Chair...

Unethical attorneys [and judges?] (97% according to Tampaguy) are the grease for the legal levithan we call our Justice system. All politics is local [bubba networks]. As always - follow the money. As above, so below? Now that attorney client privilege is becoming a thing of the past, the "truth and reconciliation game" will get very interesting.

Query, where is the “Quid pro quo ?” Are you telling me that you can’t go to work for anyone you have done business with ? Would you say the same thing if he went to work with Catholic Charities, Florida Rural Legal Services or became the Executive Dir of an Early Learning Coalition for a Particular County, or went to work as College President or took at Job with Shutts & Bowen ? No. So he’s making a clip. Congrats to him. Please prove the “Quid Pro Quo” - just don’t inference or sensationalize it

This kind of payola crapola is the legacy of the Rick Scott administration.

Wow I never thought I would see the day that Nancy wrote a bad story about the Martin County good old boy system. Keep your eyes on Rep Toby Overdorf he will be right behind Joe, Using the system for his own benefit. I have always said go into politics that is where the money is.

What a choice we Repubs had for Senate prez in 2017 and 2018. A dirty old man groper who hit on pretty young lobbyists and this son of a gun using public office as his road to riches. Saying they all do it is no reason to let Negron off the hook. When are we going to clean up this process and this town?

This is typical of most politicians who leave state office. There will be NO integrity in politics, in this state, or any other, until you take the money out of politics. Public Service and cash should not go hand in hand. In this state, and most others, it certainly does. Disgraceful...

And opposed criminal justice reform because it was bad for his current employer. “ Lock them up Joe” hope you sleep well at night

Joe Negron - He's one of the LAWYERS that has learned a gob of ways to lie, cheat, steal, and engrandize himself! Never did like him. He's one of the 97% of LAWYERS that give the honest ones a BAD NAME.

That’s ridiculous! And what the heck else are legislators supposed to do when they finish public service? Try and find a job with someone who has never heard of them? This type of attack is why good people don’t want to be in politics.

Joe did not need to find another job after leaving public office. He already (1) had a well-paying gig as a partner at one of the largest law firms in the country; and (2) nothing was forcing him to leave the Senate. He abandoned the job for a better-paying job that he helped secure taxpayer dollars with. That’s the job he did when he abandoned the job he had.

Lobbying firm work is not what Negron did. He made sure one companys needs got into the state budget, made sure they got a contract award and then went to work for them for millions of $ in salary and bennies.

They are supposed to refrain from voting on or having any influence on a matter from which they stand to benefit financially. That’s what they are supposed to do and it’s what the integrity of the office demands.

You left the Everglades Trust out of this Nancy. Start adding up their gifts to our Joseph and you see why he plunked the reservoir sites on the map exactly where they told him to.

Maybe, 'one day', this particular charlatan will find himself on "the opposite side of the Bar and bars.. (We can only hope that there is "integrity" SOMEWHERE in the "system"....

"Integrity", Honor", and "Reputation": a most difficult achievement for politicians,.. even more so for lawyers involved in politics.... "Temptation" is the 'siren call' to the weak & greedy...

"The Leopard (read:"lawyer") can NOT change his spots !" (...and he's a very quiet, duplicitous predator...; Now, he can add Florida's taxpayers to his "list of victims".

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