When Suits By Suits Go Political, Part II: Jim Greer vs. the Republican Party of Florida

| Andrew P. Torrez

"Republican Party Elephant"

Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but we’re still not a political blog.

Nevertheless, when the former Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, Jim Greer, sues the Republican Party, Florida State Senate President Mike Haridopolous and Florida State Sen. John Thrasher for unpaid severance pay and $5 million in damages following his 2010 resignation – and the Republican Party replies with allegations that Greer engaged in fraud and money laundering, funneling $300,000 from the Republican Party to his own pockets, well, we can’t resist.

Twice, in fact.  Back in September we advised you that Greer was filing suit, and that his lawyer was confident of victory.  (“They’re [the Republican Party] dead. … Jim Greer will win the criminal case and Jim Greer will win the civil case.”)

Two days ago, the Republican Party struck back, moving to dismiss the portion of the lawsuit that includes the individual defendants, Sens. Haridopolous and Thrasher.  But the Court rejected that argument, permitting Greer's lawsuit to go forward against both the Republican Party and the state senators, apparently on the theory that the individual legislators were acting as individuals and not on behalf of the Republican Party when they allegedly offered Greer $124,000 to resign back in 2010.

(Greer calls the offer a “severance payment”; media sources have not been so generous in their characterization.)

Although most of us don’t face the same sort of political issues that Jim Greer and the Republican Party of Florida do, many employers do face similar risks when they contemplate firing a prominent, high-level employee.  For those employers, the “nightmare scenario” is that the employee will run down his or her former employer in the press, or possibly air dirty laundry that the employer would rather not have out in the open. 

If you’re thinking that Jim Greer used that exact same strategy, you would be right.  In his deposition – leaked to the press, of course – Greer called Republican Party officials “whack-a-do, right-wing crazies” not-so-secretly plotting to suppress minority votes in Florida.  (The full transcript of Greer’s deposition can be found here.)

Often times, employers chafe at the idea of paying a high-level employee to go away; after all, they’ve already decided this person isn’t worth keeping.  How can they possibly be worth paying?  The practical reality is that sometimes the benefits of an amicable settlement – including a general release of all claims and non-disparagement and non-disclosure agreements – can leave the employer better off than simply rolling the dice.

We’re betting that the Republican Party of Florida wishes it had just paid Greer back in 2010.

Postscript:  A grand jury indicted Greer on multiple fraud counts in 2010 and his criminal trial is scheduled for February, 2013.