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Siesta Key Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013 5 years ago

Former GOP chairman resigns from boards

by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

Bob Waechter has been on boards that shaped Sarasota County policies, has run political campaigns and dealt in thousands of square feet of property since he moved in 1977 to Siesta.

Speaking in his raspy voice, Waechter often sparks laughter with witty addendums to Siesta Key Association Board dialogue during monthly meetings at St. Boniface Episcopal Church.

But Jan. 3, Waechter was absent from his usual spot, stage right of the tables in Room F, at the church.

Despite resigning from the Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority, the Sarasota County Tourist Development Council and the Board of Zoning Appeals, Waechter is still technically a member of the SKA Board of Directors, said the organization’s president, Catherine Luckner.

Waechter’s career imploded after the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office charged the 70-year-old Republican with identity theft connected to two fraudulent campaign contributions made under the name of an expected County Commission candidate.

Lourdes Ramirez, who sat on the SKA board with Waechter, received a thank-you note from Democrat Keith Fitzgerald for a campaign contribution in October.

The Siesta resident has spent her time in Sarasota attending Republican gatherings to solidify her political affiliation with the Republican party after previously being registered as a Democrat.

Ramirez said she was surprised when deputies informed her Waechter was behind the donation to Fitzgerald and another contribution to Democrat Liz Alpert.

Last January, Waechter encouraged Ramirez to run for the Sarasota County Charter Review Board.

“I think it was because he knew I would be less impactful (on that board than on the County Commission),” Ramirez said.

The act of political trickery — committed with a $500 reloadable debit card — was a contrast to the side of Waechter SKA members experience during meetings and volunteer events, such as the SKA and Siesta Key Village Association Adopt-a-Road cleanup.

In 2011, Waechter donated $25,000 to the Pines of Sarasota retirement community, and, one year, he helped push a broken-down fire truck in the Light up the Village parade, on Siesta Key.

Waechter’s professional career, after working as a New York City firefighter, has been more influential.

Waechter donated more than $40,000 to federal candidate campaigns, according to information retrieved from the Federal Elections Commission, and about $21,000 to state political committees and candidates.

He is an officer in the Take Our Government Back PAC, which this year has collected more than $70,000 in contributions.

Firms listing Waechter as a director currently own nearly 300,000 square feet of property worth about $1.9 million, according to data compiled by the Sarasota County Property Appraiser and the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations.

Waechter is listed as an officer in at least 35 active or inactive corporations and sold $11.7 million worth of property during the last decade.

The Sheriff’s Office filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on behalf of Ramirez.

The Florida Elections Commissions will also consider an investigation into the alleged fraudulent donations.

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