Saturday, October 02, 2010

Jim Norman Officially Busted

Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman and Florida Senate District 12 candidate Jim Norman was forced to admit that longtime campaign contributor Ralph Hughes partially paid for a house that is in the name of Norman's wife. John Stanton, president of Hughes' company, Cast-Crete, told the St. Petersburg Times that after Hughes died in 2008, Shea Hughes called Stanton asking about a $500,000 expense given to Mearline Norman. Apparently, Hughes' living relatives were not happy with the financial transaction.

"The impression I had is that they wanted the money back," Stanton said.

Norman's attorney Frank Winkles confirmed to the Tampa Tribune that Hughes helped buy the Arkansas home for Mearline Norman.

"Mearline Norman made her own business investment with Ralph Hughes, a man who had been her friend, mentor and adviser for 20 years," Winkles said Friday. "She put over $100,000 of her own money and had hundreds of hours of work on the project."

Tampa attorney Paul Phillips filed an ethics complaint against Norman. Phillips correctly stated that Hughes helped pay for the home. The complaint was dropped for legal matters. Norman was asked at the time if Hughes paid for the house. Norman's answer was less than transparent.

"It's an investment my wife has. I have gone there, but it's not mine," said Norman, who is facing state Rep. Kevin Ambler in the Republican primary for the District 12 state Senate seat on Aug. 24.

So how did his wife come up with $435,000 to pay for the house? "It came with my wife's investors," he said, though he declined to name them. "I'm not getting into my wife's investment portfolio. That's my wife's interests."

Primary opponent Republican Kevin Ambler is legally fighting to have Norman disqualified from the general election. Mearline Norman gave a six-hour deposition in court. There will likely be an appeal by either Norman or Amber depending on who wins. All Norman has to do legally is run out the clock. After the general election it becomes a moot issue. The legally more pressing issue for Norman is the deposition obtained by Amber's legal team can be used by the FBI. Several media outlets have reported that Norman is being investigated for his alleged financial ties to Hughes. Norman failed to disclose the Arkansas house and two boats. Mearline Norman is not employed. Norman and his attorney have failed to explain how she could buy a home.

Below is a local ABC Action News story on Norman.

I miss the 2008 Obama year of "chamge" and "hope." It seems almost every Florida political candidate I write about has an ethics or corruption scandal. I hear people tell me to hold my nose and vote for the lesser evil. I'm getting rather tired of the smell. The Florida political system is corrupt and needs reform. Being a partisan cheerleader and pretending there isn't a serious problem will make matters worse.

Republican blogger Chris Ingram expressed distain by refusing to endorse any candidate in the any of the big three candidates in the U.S. Senate. (Ingram endorsed no chance in hell Libertarian Alex Snitker.) Ingram also shockingly endorsed Loranne Ausley over Jeff Atwater for CFO. I agree with Ingram on almost nothing in terms of policy. I do think bloggers on the Left and Right should be calling attention to dirty politicians.

Media is has become more corporate. The Tampa Tribune's former sports editor Tom McEwen used the publication to further the profits of himself and his business friends. Nevermind, if he tied a few lies about the Tampa Bay Lightning's financial troubles in order to secure a tax subsidized arena. Blog ads and blogosphere talent being recruited into the landscape is changing the internet landscape. My fear is there will be more Tom McEwens and fewer Thomas Paines.

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