Reagan's Ties to Developer are Deeper than Donations

Dennis Maley
Carlos Beruff has been generous to Ron Reagan's run for the Manatee County Commission District 1 seat. LLC's related to Beruff's Medallion Homes have funneled at least $10,000 to Reagan's campaign—much more than any other supporter. But while Beruff is one of several developers pouring money into Reagan's campaign coffers, ties between the millionaire Senate candidate and Reagan don't end there. Beruff also built Reagan's new home in the district, while a close business partner is providing a short-term balloon payment loan.

Manatee County property records show that in May of this year, Reagan and his wife purchased a home in one of Beruff's Parrish developments using a $230,000 one-year balloon payment mortgage, issued through a Cambridge, MA company called PGE Management. According to state records, the director of the company is long-time Beruff business partner Michael Jacobson. PGE has done business in Manatee County with Beruff through 2012, but has been inactive since and, according to county records, has never issued an individual mortgage here other than Reagan's.

The county issued a certificate of occupancy to Beruff for Reagan's Parrish home on May 9 of this year. One week later, PGE issued Reagan the mortgage, which calls for full repayment in one year. While the idea of a political candidate purchasing a home from a powerful developer who is supporting their campaign and frequently comes before that board seeking its favor might raise red flags, a business partner of that developer seeming to go out of his way to issue a non-traditional mortgage to the candidate takes it to a whole new level.

What's more, there's little in the financials Reagan filed with the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office that would suggest he'd be likely to qualify for such a loan otherwise. Reagan only shows a little over $44,000 in annual income, mostly from a fledgling insurance business he owns, the New London Group. Earlier this year, he was sued by local tree farmer Darrell Turner, who had loaned him $25,000 to start the business, which Reagan acknowledged in emails to Turner, hasn't gotten off to a good start.

When Reagan failed to repay the loan or make interest payments, Turner threatened to take him to court. Turner told the Herald Tribune in April that Reagan told him he could begin making $500 monthly payments on the $36,000 he now owed Turner—if he was elected to the seat, which pays just under $80,000 a year in salary, in addition to a handsome benefits package. Turner, who has suffered his own very public financial problems, said that wasn't good enough and filed suit, while also using his land to post a large road sign warning voters not to support Reagan.

Reagan, who served in the Florida House from 2002-10 before being term-limited out of the seat, lists a total of $77,416 in liabilities in addition to the mortgage, plus another $89,600 to a corporation in Texas, which is listed as a "contingent" liability and another $113,000 to Harbor Community Bank, which is listed under "joint and several liabilities not reported." It would seem that he would not be what you would call a sound bet on that kind of mortgage loan, especially if he doesn't emerge victorious in the three-way race for the seat, which will be decided in an open primary on August 30.

Reagan has an enormous fundraising advantage against primary opponents Corie Holmes and Priscilla Whisenant-Trace. His near $70,000 is more than double that of Whisenant-Trace and over six times more than Holmes. In addition to Beruff's largesse, he's received $5,000 more from entities associated with Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder Manatee Ranch and another $4,000 from various Neal Homes related sources.

The District 1 seat is currently held by Larry Bustle, who is retiring. Beruff, whose Manatee County development interests are largely concentrated within the district, was also Bustle’s top benefactor and if you watched how Bustle voted while on the BOCC, you’ll notice that such support proved a sound investment. Clearly, Beruff would like to see Bustle replaced by Reagan, and the fact that Reagan so obviously needs the BOCC income makes the relationship all the more troubling.

Reagan did not return a request to comment on the issue, but some questions he might want to answer for voters is whether other investors also put up money for his insurance company and, if so, were any of them developers and what is the current status of those notes. It would also be interesting to know whether he was given a good deal on the home, the value of which Reagan lists as $292,000 in his candidate filing, and what (if any) interest rate he's being charged on the balloon loan.
 
Developers have proven to have extremely powerful influence over our county commission, filtering down through the administration and bureaucracy to ensure that their interests are consistently given, shall we say, intense consideration. The resulting absence of smart growth policies has contributed to extreme traffic increases, the destruction of wetlands and other environmental factors, and urban sprawl.
 
The absence of smart growth has also brought unsustainable service costs that now have the county looking to taxpayers. As growth itself is not paying for infrastructure and public safety needs, coughing up more tax money is now the proposed solution. In other words, we really can’t afford for developers to have even more influence over our local government.

When a candidate for the board is this entangled with a prolific developer who routinely asks for and gets exceptions to policy—and frequently sues the county on the few occasions when he doesn’t—voters deserve full and complete transparency before deciding whether that candidate will be in a position to be unbiased when the developer comes before the board for a vote. Reagan’s situation raises too many red flags and until he can demonstrate that such entanglements are not cause for concern, voters would do well to be skeptical.

Dennis Maley is a featured columnist for The Bradenton Times. His column appears each Thursday and Sunday. Dennis' debut novel, A Long Road Home, was released in July, 2015. Click here to order your copy.

 


Reader Comments
ConflictOfInterest[email protected]
AUG 05  •  I don't understand how Mr. Reagan would have the ability to vote on anything in the future that directly affects any of the developers. How would this not be a conflict of interest? We need to vote for anyone except him..
Barbara Angelucci[email protected]
AUG 04  •  If citizens in District #1 do their due diligence, Corie Holmes will be their candidate of choice. Surely, they could not vote for Mr. Reagan who needs the position to pay his bills, never mind taking care of the citizens in District #1. Vote Corie Holmes who is a non developer candidate.
Toni [email protected]
AUG 04  •  Thank you for such a great story.
cdv[email protected]
AUG 04  •  Thanks for the back story. Helps us understand who is the best candidate.
[email protected]
AUG 04  •  Great reporting - thanks