The unethical and outright corrupt ways of Shady Lawyer/State Representative Joseph S. Geller have been well documented here in Voters Opinion.
In addition to his penchant for employing sleazy legal tactics when representing fellow dirtbags like Phyllis Smith, Frantz Pierre, and Jason Bloch, he regularly abuses his position in the Florida House… where he still hasn’t figured out how to vote properly.
Even worse, after royally screwing up as the legal counsel for the municipalities of El Portal, Miami Lakes and Opa-locka, Geller teamed up with Shady Boy-Lobbyist Evan Ross in an attempted stealth power grab in North Miami during its search for a new city attorney.
When he ran for state representative in 2014, Joe Geller was fined four times by the Florida Elections Commission, each in the amount of $50.00, for the late filing of campaign treasurer’s reports (see here, here, here and here). When he refused to pay those fines, the FEC issued Default Final Orders. In addition to those four, Geller was also fined $500.00 for another late filing. He appealed that fine, and on September 18, 2015, he lost. The FEC sent him a letter on October 14, 2015, nearly a month later, when he still hadn’t paid the fine. (You can view his campaign documents related to his campaign by clicking: here)
We already know how unethical, inept and outright corrupt Florida State Representative Joseph S. Geller is, but we didn’t know about his equally unscrupulous brother until the Hallandale Beach dirty dealings were recently exposed.
The Miami New Times, however, had no problem revealing the sleazy dealings of brother Steve as far back as 2008 when he was a State Senator representing “Hallandale and most of Southeast Broward in Tallahassee,” as reported by Bob Norman in Wait, Let Me Change Hats.
According to the article, Steve Geller had his legislative office in Hallandale’s city hall at the same time he represented a developer, Cornerstone Group, that was negotiating to sell a parcel of land to the city. Instead of protecting the financial interests of his constituents in Hallandale Beach, Geller was more concerned with “trying to pry more of their money from the city for the developer.”
After several discussions with then-city manager Mike Good, Geller did close the deal, and Hallandale Beach spent $20 million on a “vacant piece of property in the middle of a land bust,” which was “financed with a $25 million bond for which taxpayers will be paying a total of about $40 million, including interest, through 2027.”
When questioned by Bob Norman about his lobbying the Hallandale Beach city manager on behalf of his client, Geller was unsurprisingly evasive. Not only did he deliberately “misunderstand” which parcel of land the reporter was asking about, but Geller also claimed he represented Cornerstone as its lawyer and not as a lobbyist.
As if that distinction makes a sleazy land deal any less sleazy.
Norman wrote, “Geller’s powerful position in Tallahassee certainly gives him an edge over other, um, lawyers who represent developers in Hallandale. He votes on budgets, property tax proposals, and other issues that deeply affect the city — and every politician and public official he’s lobbied knows it.”
Not so ironically, brother Joe’s little buddy, Shady Boy-Lobbyist Evan Ross, Hallandale Beach’s newest parasite, pulled a similar stunt in North Miami Beach a few years back when he covertly lobbied elected officials to accept a sanitation bid from Waste Management without disclosing that he was employed by the company as a “paid consultant.”
While the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust gave Evan Ross a pass, Steve Geller’s shady lobbying tactics got the attention of the Florida Commission on Ethics.
And not in a good way.
Last week, Florida Politics reported that the newly elected Broward County Commissioner had to resign from his brother’s law firm, Greenspoon Marder, after being “warned that under the Florida Commission on Ethics’ interpretation of state law, his continued presence at Greenspoon could prevent any of the firm’s attorneys from appearing before the commission.”
Since brother Joe Geller regularly represents clients in hearings before the Ethics Commission, keeping brother Steve on the payroll would hurt his business. So Steve had no choice but to resign, open another firm and bring his lobbying clients with him.
He did not, however, hide his dismay. He tried arguing that “[m]ost local governments believe that if you recuse yourself, you’ve resolved the conflict.”
The Ethics Commission wasn’t buying it.
Florida Politics reporter Michael Moline wrote:
Florida Statutes 112.313(7)(a) says public officials can’t work for or maintain contractual relationships with any business or agency they regulate.
It also provides:
“Nor shall an officer or employee of an agency have or hold any employment or contractual relationship that will create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict between his or her private interests and the performance of his or her public duties or that would impede the full and faithful discharge of his or her public duties.”
Kerry Stillman, spokeswoman for the Ethics Commission, told Florida Politics that even if Geller were to recuse himself, there would still be a “temptation to dishonor,” adding that “the statute seeks ‘the full and faithful discharge’ of the official’s ‘public duties.'”
Although he reluctantly complied with the Commission’s demand, he didn’t quietly accept the decision.
Steve Geller petulantly whined that “the provision is rarely enforced.”
In other words, it’s okay to break the law … just don’t get caught.
Geller then kvetched, “I made the mistake of asking. Never ask.”
Spoken like a true career politician.
Unlike beauty, corruption is not just skin deep.
When it comes to the Geller Brothers, it’s a birthright.
And apparently, a legacy.