Unexplained finances show Keith Landry unqualified for Orange County Comptroller

Keith Landry

Orange County Comptroller is a serious job, one that requires an equally serious candidate.

And Keith Landry — known primarily as a television personality — is not such a candidate.

As the only elected comptroller in Florida, whoever Orange County voters choose must be held to a higher-than-normal standard. This person is accountable to the public, since they are in charge of making sure the county spends its money — the people’s money — in a responsible way.

Since 1998, the position of comptroller has been held by one of Orange County’s most respected elected officials, Martha Haynie. An accountant by trade, Haynie has been certified as a CPA.

Those are exactly the qualifications, and presumably the disposition, necessary for such vital responsibilities as auditing departments and making sure they abide by the law as it relates to public funds.

A consummate professional, Haynie has frequently collaborated with the county commission on such weighty issues as Tourist Development Tax expenditures, department performance and more.

After nearly two decades as comptroller, Haynie decided not to run for re-election. Fortunately for Orange County voters, a qualified candidate threw his hat in the ring: Phil Diamond, a tax attorney, CPA and former Orlando city commissioner.

Then along came Landry, who entered the race just before the qualifying deadline.

You see, Landry is a TV reporter. And as such, he claims his main credentials is a history of holding elected officials accountable. Despite a noble ambition to public office, Landry is neither trained or qualified as an accountant, much less a CPA.

If that alone didn’t disqualify him for the job, there’s this: Landry’s financial disclosure and campaign reports.

Landry is looking to take on a highly detailed position, one where every penny is accounted. As comptroller, T’s must be crossed; I’s must be dotted.

That said, according to the paperwork filed with the state, Landry appears to have difficulty doing such things for himself, much less Orange County.

For example, Landry notes $45,000 in loans to the campaign, but fails to indicate any source of the money. He lists no checking account, nor income from rental properties. Landry does claim an annual salary of $106,000, yet — mysteriously — he has the ability to spend 40 percent of that income on a campaign.

Even more troubling: There’s no way to know where he got his money, or if it is in compliance with the law.

When a candidate with no checking account invests $45,000 cash into a campaign, that raises eyebrows. One question (among many) is how a guy can run for comptroller when he apparently doesn’t understand how to fill out the basic financial forms required?

In addition to failing to list a checking account, other issues arise from Landry’s financial disclosure and campaign report dated June 20. Landry says he has four houses, presumably with several mortgages — remember, he reports no checking account — but lists no income from three rental houses.

Also, what’s missing from the disclosure is his ownership interest in Keith Landry Enterprises — an active Limited Liability Company, according to the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations records.

On the day he submitted his financial report (June 20), Landry made a $15,000 loan to the campaign, with a second campaign report July 22 showing another $30,000 loan — $45,000 in all.

Perhaps Landry feels it’s appropriate to keep his money outside of the legitimate banking system — stuffed in a mattress, or buried in coffee cans in the yard of one of his four homes.

If that’s how he conducts personal business, so be it.

But since Landry is running for public office, especially one with the critical job of managing county finances, that’s another story entirely.

Unexplained bags of cash are not how most voters handle their finances, and it is certainly not how an Orange County Comptroller is expected handle taxpayer money. It just doesn’t work that way.

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Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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