TOM GRADY: A FLORIDA CRONY PROFILE

Straight from Slick Ricky’s Toolbox

Late last month, Supreme Crony Rick Scott had the audacity to appoint his longtime bosom buddy and fellow crook Tom Grady to the State Board of Education to replace John Colon, who had already been sent on a local-level errand to the Manatee County School Board to replace Mary Cantrell, who died of bone marrow cancer on July 12 of this past summer.

Ol’ Tom Grady, a wealthy securities lawyer from Naples and perennial tool in Scott’s box, has a storied history in Florida politicking. As I already mentioned, he’s a very close personal friend of Florida’s grimy governor, Slick Ricky. The two actually lived on the same street in Naples at one point. Through friends like Grady, Rick Scott unabashedly prosecutes his crony-infested campaign against decency in state governance with no regard for the interests of the public in his formula.

Scott showed his true colors to the entire population of Florida for the umpteenth time by appointing Grady to the SBOE. Grady, like virtually everyone else on the board, has zero real experience in Education. It’s regretful that the silent majority is so silent. If more people would take a few minutes to pull back from whatever it is that consumes so much of their time that they can’t bother to notice that a band of weasels is stealing our state, we just might be able to stop the madness in the Florida government’s approach to public education.

An In-Depth Look at Ol’ Tom Grady

Tom Grady is worth a look to say the least. He’s a rich guy who is the son of a rich guy. He doesn’t have any qualifications that would render him even marginally worthy of consideration for a seat on the SBOE, if one so daringly assumes that the main purpose of the SBOE is to advance the station of free public education in Florida.

Grady was born May 14, 1958 in Ohio. His family moved to Florida within a year of his birth, and we’ve been stuck with him ever since.

Little is known about Grady’s childhood. His father, Roland William “Mac” Grady, built a camper-trailer business in Rockledge. According to an article in the corporate journal Business Observer by Jean Gruss from February 2012, Tom learned the “time-value” of money at the tender age of nine, when his father demonstrated the value of subtle nuance in dishonesty by lying to him about what he was going to pay him for helping to sell campers. Grady’s dad told him that he’d pay 50 dollars for every unit he helped to sell. What he didn’t tell him was that he was going to be paid in $50 US savings bonds. When little Tom went to the bank to “make his first deposit” with his bonds, he was “stunned” to find out that the bonds were only worth a fraction of their face value. Grady chalked it up as a lesson in way the business is conducted. He “chuckled,” “Your price; my terms.”

That lesson in tricky business seems to have made an indelible mark on young Tom. He learned quite a bit more about business from his father. From Gruss’ article:

Grady says his passion for securities work also came at an early age when his father took his trailer company public by merging it with a publicly traded shell company based in Utah. As a teenager, Grady listened intently as lawyers negotiated the terms. “That was exciting to me,” he says.

So a teenage Tom found corporate mergers exciting. While that seems a bit odd, I won’t hold it against him. I’m sure there are weirder things out there that excite teenagers.

Grady was exposed to politics at a young age as well. His camper-seller father was a Rockledge city councilman from 1963 to 1965, and mayor of the city from 1966 through 1975. One of his dad’s most notable actions as mayor of Rockledge was in 1968, when he conned the city council into adopting an ordinance banning political pollsters from working within Rockledge city limits. Ol’ Mac was incensed that Mitt Romney’s father George had decided to quit the 1968 New Hampshire Primary.

Ol’ Mac Grady Had a Plan

In a March 23, 1968 editorial, the Sarasota Herald Tribune delivered Grady and his council a thorough primer on the relative usefulness of political polls and why it just might be un-American to ban them by way of any rationale. According to the Herald Tribune, an aggravated 38-year-old Mayor Grady said of the pollsters he intended to ban, “It’s a dangerous trend when they call the shots.” Going even further into some sort of fantasyland concept of the American electorate wherein voters don’t actually think before voting, but instead vote based on what polls of what they think tell them how to vote (huh?), he said, “All they’re doing is influencing the voter.” Ol’ Mac Grady was a deep thinker indeed.

Now, it’s not particularly fair to visit the conduct of a father upon his son, but it’s fair to aver that the son of even a mediocre politician like ol’ Mac Grady forms at least some of his own political perspective based on his father’s viewpoints and policymaking decisions. Either by amazingly unlikely coincidence, or more reliable, familial association, ol’ Mac Grady’s obvious predisposition that the little people are stupid seems to have found its way into Tom’s predilective inventory quite comfortably. That’s putting it mildly.

As a pretty well-to-do kid, young Tom spent summers at the Grady family residence in the mountains of western North Carolina. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s just that most kids who are brought up moving back and forth between luxurious homes for the sake of living in relatively moderate climes do so in stark contrast to the vast majority of their contemporaries, most of whom are bound to parents who are bound by the need to be employed, more often than not in a job that necessitates a certain degree of geographic monotony. For Tommy Boy, it was winters on Florida’s Space Coast and summers in North Carolina’s mountains. So wish so many.

Anyway, young Tom got a B.S. in finance from FSU in 1979 and a law degree in 1982 from Duke. By all accounts he was a stellar student. He was a mover and a shaker. On campus, he was president of this and editor of that, and a member emeritus of several august organizations. No wonder he blossomed into such a pompous ass.

A couple of years after graduating from Duke with a law degree, young Tom Grady decided to move to the gulf coast city of Naples. There he joined the law firm of Cummings & Lockwood and began his career as a securities attorney.

Not a Lawyer for Ordinary Folks

His résumé includes all kinds of prestigious affiliations and impressive memberships in important groups. In Florida’s crony circles, which are dominated by the so-called “c-suite” crowd, ol’ Tom Grady is a very important man, and a very good friend to have. If you’re just a regular, everyday human being trying to make ends meet in a state where the economy is rigged to make the wealthy wealthier and the middle class suffer as it shrinks, Tom ain’t no friend of yours.

Ol’ Tom Grady is a lawyer who represents banks. Among the attorneys who defend ordinary peasants from foreclosures, Tom is not a popular guy, because he’s done as much as he’s been able to do to make foreclosure proceedings easier for banks and more difficult for ordinary homeowners to defend themselves against. He championed legislation that would have done away with judicial foreclosure in Florida. If it had passed, lenders would have been free to foreclose on mortgages without going through the court. That’s the kind of lawyer ol’ Tom Grady is.

When people call ol’ Tom a wealthy lawyer, they’re serious about it. He put his waterfront Naples mansion on the market in 2014 for $13.9 million and sold it a few months later for a mere $11.7 million. With the home, the buyer got the option to join the top-tier Port Royal Club. The initiation fee is $75,000, or more than twice the starting salary of teachers in many Florida school districts. Fortunately, the annual dues are just $8,500. Ol’ Tom will tell you that’s a bargain. Go ahead; take a video tour of ol’ Tom Grady’s modest, former abode.

Perhaps you’d prefer a slideshow.

Grady has a deep background in Florida politics. In addition to growing up the son of a local politician, he was legislative page in the Florida House in 1972 and a House intern in 1978 and 1979. He understands just how that piano plays.

Tom the Lawmaker

Good ol’ hardworkin’ Tom began his own political career when, according to him, a couple of his politicking friends, Dudley Goodlette and Garrett Richter, “approached” him in 2008 and “asked” him to run for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives. Grady said he was “honored and intrigued.” I bet he was.

It’s interesting to note that earlier this year, ol’ Garrett Richter sponsored bills that “would establish a regulatory framework for hydraulic fracturing or fracking in Florida and allow chemicals used in the process to be kept secret.” They would also invalidate any and all local ordinances against fracking by local governments. Nice guy, that Garrett Richter.

Goodlette, a Florida House representative from 1998 to 2006 and chief of staff to the Speaker of the House in 2009 and 2010, is another wealthy lawyer and a current director for Florida Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company. Richter is a banker.

So, ol’ Tom decided to give it a shot. He raised $226,344 from a slew of corporate donors and wealthy individuals bent on maintaining the hegemony of the moneyed in Tallahassee. I wonder if it really took that much cash to scare off any opposition. He ran unopposed, and won by default, the same way a lot of other Florida cronies have made their way into the Florida Legislature.

During his single term in the legislature, Grady sponsored five bills and co-sponsored a slew of others. Of the five bills he sponsored, three became law, including the apocryphally-titled, Florida Equal Opportunity in Education Act, which was signed by Charlie Crist on June 10, 2009. Thanks Charlie. The law is a real stinker, and was one of the very first bills that spelled out the charterization of a public school as a consequence of winding up in the lowest performing category. And to think that back then we thought things couldn’t get any worse.

How things change.

Here are a few lines from that bill from ol’ Tom:

For a school identified in the category of lowest performing schools, the school district must select one of the following options and submit a plan to the State Board of Education for implementing the option by the beginning of the second year after such identification, unless the school advances to a higher category pursuant to subsection (6) before such time:

Convert the school to a district-managed turnaround school by means that include implementation of a turnaround plan approved by the Commissioner of Education that becomes the school’s improvement plan;

Reassign students to another school and monitor the progress of each reassigned student;

Close the school and authorize a sponsor to reopen the school as a charter school or multiple charter schools; or

Contract with an outside entity to operate the school.

So, the oft-heard accusation that ol’ Tom Grady doesn’t have any experience in education isn’t entirely true. He has a fair amount of experience in devising the means to destroy it.

Grady also sponsored a bill to limit the amount of sales tax that could be collected on the purchase of luxury items like big yachts and airplanes to $25,000 ($18K in another version). He called it the Aviation and Maritime Full Employment Act. That’s another great euphemism from a gifted grafter. Ol’ Tom explained that if we didn’t limit the tax, boat buyers would go elsewhere, and it would cost the state manufacturing and sales jobs. There was no data at the time to support his assertion. The truth is that it was a move to save boat and airplane buyers, many of whom are friends of ol’ Tom, lots of money. Any collateral benefit to the peasants was just that: collateral. There are plenty of ways around losing tax revenues to offshore havens, but that wasn’t Tom’s purpose. His purpose was to save his friends some cash. Unfortunately for them, his bill died.

Flyin’ Tom

Apparently, ol’ Tom is an avid flyboy. During his term as a representative, he routinely used a private plane for fights back and forth to Tallahassee in a scheme orchestrated by the Naples technology firm InfiNetwork. One of the company’s executives donated to Grady’s election campaign. Taxpayers were billed a total of $7,850 for Grady’s interest in small plane aviation. In very stark contrast, Miami Rep. James Bush III, 54, a teacher and minister, occasionally takes a Greyhound bus to Tallahassee. That trip takes about 12 hours and costs less than $100 each way. Go figure that one.

Grady tried to defend his choice of travel on the grounds that private charters, at the price of $1250 to $1500 each way, were the most economical option available to him based on his “House and constituent schedule,” but another lawmaker, Rep. Matt Hudson, also a Naples Republican, demonstrated that he could fly on a commercial carrier round trip for roughly a third of what ol’ Tom thought was reasonable for a one-way fare.

Tom “Graduates” from the Legislature

Anyway, apparently bored with the slow pace of wholesale misgovernance in the legislature, Grady left the Florida House after only one term, and returned to Naples to skim more money off the top of corporate mergers and other big business deals. He waxed poetic in an “exit interview” on Comcasts “,” a Naples local TV show. Get down with the sickness:

Our Humble Public Servant 

As our luck would have it, it wasn’t long before ol’ Slick Ricky called on our good friend to serve the citizens of Florida once again. Ol’ Tom Grady couldn’t have been any happier to have another chance to serve us, and this time he served us up real well done.

Ol’ Tom Becomes the Bankers’ Inside Man

In August of 2011, Scott appointed Grady to head up the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, the agency that oversees mortgage brokers, banks and securities firms. As if anything else could possibly happen, Rickster the Trickster and his cabinet, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam “now there’s a crony” Putnam, and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, approved him unanimously.

Grady said to the cabinet, “I’m humbled and thrilled to be back in Tallahassee to serve at this time, in this office. Capital goes where capital is treated well, and that will be the mission of this office, to treat capital well.” Those comments were very telling indeed. Screw the people; his mission was about attracting capital, whatever the costs to the public might be.

There was just one little problem that got in the way of Grady taking the job. He was suing the State Board of Administration. Scott, Atwater and Bondi are trustees (oh shit) of the SBA, which is the agency that oversees the state retirement fund. If he was going to take the job as preeminent purloiner over at the OFR, he couldn’t be suing the SBA, so Cardinal Crony Scott told him to drop the $1.4 million suit if he wanted to come back to Tallahassee. Ol’ Tom complied.

The Case

The case was the result of Grady and a couple other lawyers being on the losing side of a case that involved the state investing enormous sums of public cash in Enron, just as it began to go belly-up. In 2001, the fraud-ridden, Humpty Dumpty energy company eventually landed on the sidewalk from many floors above. Apparently the state had hired yet another company, Alliance Capital Management, to call its investment shots, and things hadn’t turn out so well. The state hired Grady and another attorney, Guy Burns of Tampa, to sue Alliance, but Alliance won, which meant that the state’s pension fund lost $300 million, and the lawyers lost out on legal fees since they were only payable if the state prevailed in the case.

Well, Grady and Burns didn’t like that one bit, so they sued the SBA. When Scott “nominated” him to take over the OFR, he told him that he couldn’t be suing a state agency and be the commissioner of the OFR simultaneously, so Grady agreed to end his involvement in the suit, and gave his stake in the case to Burns.

Quite coincidentally, oral arguments in the case were happening just across town at the very same time that Head Hooligan Scott and his band of brigands were meeting with a grateful Grady in order to officially place him in office. Of course, no mention of the suit was made at the meeting.

Ol’ Tom stayed at his post as the commissioner of the OFR for just over six months, which, as it turned out, was just long enough for him to nearly disassemble the agency altogether. Now there’s a hint as to why he was recently chosen to “serve” on the SBOE.

During his short stint as commissioner of the OFR, Grady closed half of the agency’s regional offices. He collaborated with Slick Ricky to unseat a veteran OFR division director and bring in yet another Naples crony. He rendered the agency all but impotent by eliminating 81 positions at the very same time that Florida led the entire nation in mortgage fraud. He defended his moves as cost cutting initiatives during a period of across-the-board government belt-tightening.

The only problem with that explanation was that when it came to his own expense account, the belt had no buckle.

During his tenure at the OFR, Grady charged the state more than $800 to go to Atlanta for a two-day banking conference, even though he skipped the second day so he could head off to Utah for a week’s vacation. He spent more than $6,000 on in-state travel, including a pricey room at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota and another one at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. He asked for reimbursement for more than $10,000 worth of office furniture, including a $2,482 leather sofa and a $563 floor lamp. Wow. This guy lives large.

Seat-Warming at Citizens

In March 2012, after doing a stellar job of eviscerating an already ineffective agency, Grady was asked by Citizens Property Insurance board chairman Carlos Lacasa to take over the struggling state-run enterprise. The newly aroused Grady quickly wrote a nice little letter to his employees:

“Change is good.”

You have heard me say it, and often. Now, I’m eating my own cooking.

Yesterday, I received a call from the Chairman of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and was asked to serve as the interim, and potentially permanent, President of that company. The start date? Monday, March 12. Under the gun, I made the decision: I accepted.

I love working at the OFR. I love the people, the industry, and the work. But I am eager to serve in a different capacity in another area of the financial services industry, one where stability and rationality are necessary conditions to a sustained economic recovery. Make no mistake, under Gov. Scott’s leadership, that recovery is under way in Florida – and I aim to help keep it going.

With your help, OFR will continue to energize everyone and everything associated with it. We will focus on outcomes, not process. OFR now has terrific Division Directors, and a very capable Deputy Commissioner. Finally, we have budget clarity, and can FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS on the future.

I encourage you to make the most of the newly recharged OFR. Question everything. Make decisions. Think different. Be heard. But most of all, suck the marrow out of life, inside and outside the office, and make your one shot on earth count.

Thank you for the opportunity to have served this terrific agency. God bless, and good luck!

Temporary Tom Continues to Spend Big

Ol’ Tom’s extravagant lifestyle as a public serpent continued during his very, very brief seat-warming exercise in the Citizens president’s office. The job itself came with a salary of $315,000 a year, which is a whole lot more than the $133,000 salary at the OFR. In less than two months at Citizens, he ran up a bill of almost $10,000 on expensive hotel rooms, airplane trips, a limo ride and a trip to Bermuda.

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His rapid-fire demonstrations of immoderation rubbed even a few cronies the wrong way. Then state senator (and now Pasco County Tax Collector) Mike Fasano called his expenses “unconscionable.” Fasano said, “This is a perfect example of how out of touch he and others in Tallahassee are as far as understanding and appreciating what the little guy and gal are having to deal with economically today.” Mike, sometimes you really surprise us.

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John Wortman, a member of the Citizens board, said he was unaware of Grady’s travel expenses. He added that he would propose that future expenses of Citizens presidents be made public as part of the board’s meeting agenda every month.

A Rare Dose of Humility

In a poetically pleasant development, ol’ Tom Grady’s premature, premonitory presumption in his creative good-bye letter to OFR staff that his appointment to president of Citizens was “potentially permanent” was indeed rather specious. When the board met to appoint a permanent president, head snake Scott’s inside man wound up on the outside of the finalist group. Even a Hail Mary pass from his board member buddy Wortman wasn’t enough to save him.

At the meeting, board chairman Carlos Lacasa asked the search committee to forward the names of the two finalists to the full board, which would interview them and select a new president.

Wortman, a Slick Ricky appointee, made a motion to put Grady’s name on the list of finalists.

Lacasa lodged his objection, and said he was open to letting the search firm list the rankings of all five of the candidates to see how Grady rated.

Wortman howled like a wounded crony and said that was “unfair,” and declared that such an open selection process is why it’s so difficult to get good public servants to apply for work in Florida.

A representative for the search committee testified that the top two candidates were way ahead of the other three, including ol’ Tom. After that brief spat, the search committee voted against adding Grady’s name to the list of finalists, much to Wortman’s horror. Things can get tense in Tallahassee.

That was the summer of 2012. Our man Grady bowed out of that public humiliation as gracefully as he was capable of pulling off, and even offered, quite generously, to assist the new guy, an actual insurance executive from Maryland named Barry Gilway, with his transition into the job. “I would like to assist in any way I can in the transition,” Grady told the board. “Barry will be a great CEO for this organization.” Little did the good people of Florida know that ol’ Tom Grady would be back. Perhaps ol’ Tom has something to prove.

And Here We Are

That brings us full circle, back to the beginning of this stomachache-inducing post. The Naples Crony Cartel is a powerful clan indeed. Scott is unabashed. His appointment of Grady to the State Board of education is a deplorable attempt to put an institution-gutting expert to work designing the demise of the very institution under that board’s stewardship.

The only experience Grady has in public education involves authoring hateful legislation aimed at holding schools and teachers “accountable” for factors in students’ performance that are wholly out of teachers’ and schools’ control. He is an avowed fan of the privatization of nearly everything, including public education. He has made a fortune by helping his fellow cronies stay just inside the law in huge business deals and calling his role the “lubricant” of business.

To anyone genuinely concerned about what the cast of crooks in Tallahassee has done to public education in Florida since Jebby lobbed the first Molotov cocktail at our school system back in 1998, Grady is an absolutely terrible choice for any government position, and doubly so for any position so important as one involving the management and guardianship of public education in our state.

What makes the whole affair even more horrible is that Rick Scott doesn’t care. He’s doubling down on his all-front offensive against public education, and he wants results. For the kinds of results he wants, Tom Grady, destroyer of institutions established to serve, protect and educate the public, is the go-to guy.

Rick Scott has definitely upped the ante with this latest, all but artless ploy. His clear purpose is to completely pack the SBOE with public education haters. Now that our shock and awe has subsided, it is time for all of us to write our state senators and state our opposition to his confirmation in the clearest of terms.

Grady is a worm snake of a man. He has no integrity. He fits into Rick Scott’s inner circle of the wantonly wicked seamlessly, but he is a ghastly choice for membership on the Florida SBOE. His confirmation will most assuredly end in disaster for public education in Florida.

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Letters Are in Order

We need to write letters. Our senators need to hear from us now. Chris Guerrieri of Jacksonville wrote a great letter to the Naples Daily News that was published last November. I’m glad NDN printed it. Judging from the tone the publication usually takes when it publishes something about Grady, it often seems to be in a Let’s Kiss Tom Grady’s Ass contest. A little truth is always good for the soul; even for the folks over at Naples Daily News.

An Important Note

I do not begrudge the well-to-do their fine possessions or comfortable stations in life. On the contrary, like many ordinary people, I rather envy and admire them. What I take issue with is the absurd propensity of some of the rich to be so out of touch with the typical challenges that so many people face in their everyday lives that they attempt to wield their wallets as weapons against the non-wealthy and presume to make policy that only makes life harder for those of modest means and easier for themselves, as if they need to. I have a problem with the rich when they band together, not to protect themselves from unreasonable mobs, but to overwhelm a fragile democratic process by sheer economic might. Indeed, it is that behavior that creates angry mobs in the first place.

When you’re worth ten million dollars and live in a twelve million-dollar house, you have no business telling the public how to run public schools, particularly when you have no clue about the subject to begin with.

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