SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — Our 9 Investigates team has been working to talk to the players said to be involved in the probe into former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg and Rep. Matt Gaetz, including some listed in questionable spending involving consultant contracts signed by Greenberg during his time as tax collector.
Channel 9 investigative reporter Karla Ray spent the day tracking down some of the people tied to those contracts. An audit found most of the contracts had no justification for the more than one million tax dollars spent.
That included contracts with politically connected friends of Greenberg’s. 9 Investigates first asked about many of those contracts back in 2018, and at the time, the office sent over a list of justifications. Auditors later determined most of the work could not be accounted for.
The total cost to taxpayers was over a million dollars for less than one term in office.
An excel spreadsheet provided by Seminole County lists consultants and lobbyists paid by taxpayer money, at the hands of then-tax collector Greenberg.
There is a common pattern on the contracts listed, including a $7,500 contract with Florida lawmaker Anthony Sabatini’s law firm, for which auditors could not confirm he was doing lobbying work.
Another consulting contract with a company called Maga Advisory Group showed “no example of work product,” according to auditors. Attorney Robert Hoogland is a registered agent of that business, which is run by his wife Leslie Key.
“What kind of work were you doing?” Ray asked Hoogland.
“Consulting work,” Hoogland said.
“Can you be more specific?”
“No,” Hoogland said.
“You don’t think the public has the right to know, since you were paid with tax dollars?” Ray asked.
“Political consulting and for marketing,” Hoogland replied.
Another consulting contract involved former Longwood Mayor and current Commissioner Matt Morgan. He was paid more than $40,000 for an unknown project, just weeks after records show a $37,000 federal tax lien against him was released. Calls to Morgan’s cell phone went straight to voicemail, and at his home, 9 Investigates was told he was in Tampa for work.
Inside one of Seminole’s most exclusive communities, we also tried to speak to former state lawmaker and lobbyist Chris Dorworth, who handled lobbying services for the tax collector’s office through powerhouse Ballard Partners.
Dorworth resigned from that firm last week, following a report from The New York Times in which sources claimed Dorworth and Gaetz discussed helping a shill candidate enter the state Senate race eventually won by Jason Brodeur.
Dorworth and Gaetz have denied that report. Dorworth did not come to the door after someone inside the home said he was there.
Dorworth is in the middle of a legal battle with Seminole County over a development called River Cross, which would go in the county’s rural boundary. It has been shot down by commissioners, but Dorworth has filed two lawsuits to try to move it forward.
The leader of the opposition of that project was Brian Buete, who ran for tax collector against Greenberg in 2020, and is the victim in Greenberg’s federal stalking case.
Morgan also challenged an incumbent commissioner in the 2020 election. That commissioner voted against the River Cross project. Morgan lost the race.