Orlando Mayoral Candidate Gets Gold Star Charity Rating, Testifies Before Supreme Court

    Information uncovered by the East Orlando Post calls into question Orlando Sentinel article slamming well-funded Dyer opponent.


    By Jacob Engels


    Over the weekend, the Orlando Sentinel’s Jeff Weiner published an article on the Sentinel website billing John “Buddy” Dyer’s opponent Paul Paulson as a bad manager of his non-profits and an attorney who faced complaints before the Florida Bar. Paulson is a successful businessman and veteran.


    Weiner’s article, which was placed in the Sentinel’s “News / Breaking News” categories, was more fitted for the paper’s opinion section. From start to finish, it raised questions about Paulson’s past – but failed to obtain quotes from people close to him… instead relying on well documented supporters of current Orlando City Mayor Buddy Dyer to provide input.


    On the first attack on Paulson’s character, Weiner drudged up a decades old round of complaints filed against Mr. Paulson during his time as a practicing attorney. The complaints, were filed by a disgruntled former employee. Paulson, who was at the end of his time as an active lawyer when the near decades old complaints were filed – has since retired and was called before the Florida Supreme Court in 2012.


    The Supreme Court relied on Paulson’s testimony in a case and described him as a “retired attorney”. But Weiner chose to identify Mr. Paulson as a “disbarred attorney”. It would seem that the Supreme Courts most recent use of Paulson during a trial would supersede Weiner’s ill-informed analysis – but that must have slipped the weekend editors at the Sentinel.


    Especially since the Orlando Sentinel reporter was provided with that information and decided to color them in his own manner, traveling far from the realm of fact and logic.


    During Weiner’s second salvo, he zeroed in on Paulson’s well regarded charitable organizations and really showcased his bias by enlisting known Dyer supporters and a second tier charity ratings agency to pontificate on Mr. Paulson’s veteran and breast cancer research non-profits. This part of the article was titled “Watchdog raises red flags” and featured a review requested by the Sentinel from charity watchdog group Charity Navigator.


    The Vice President of that group criticized Paulson’s hiring of a fundraising agency among other items. The Sentinel and Mr. Weiner failed to publish an independent review of the groups by a local auditor, which found the group operating at above average levels.


    “Intrepid” reporter Jeff Weiner also failed to disclose that Charity Navigator is a direct competitor of GuideStar (another charity rating group), and has a history of providing harsh reviews of charities that receive high marks from GuideStar. In doing so, the group is trying to carve out a “tougher” image, but observers say that it often comes across as retaliation and not as an objective review.


    Paul Paulson’s groups received a “Gold” rating from GuideStar and are explained as organizations committed to transparency in their efforts. Another fact knowingly left out by Mr. Weiner and approved by the Orlando Sentinel editors.


    In his final commentary trying to frame Paulson in a negative light, Mr. Weiner relied on quotes from a longtime supporter and top-tier campaign donor of current Mayor Buddy Dyer, who runs a veterans group that received a considerable amount of vouchers from Paulson’s non-profit.


    An email sent by Mr. Paulson to the Camaraderie Foundation regarding his donations.


    Again, we see Weiner and the Sentinel leave out certain facts that were NOT part of their anti-Paulson narrative. They addressed Michael Waldrop’s Camaraderie Foundation as “established” after spending considerable time working to discredit Paulson’s non-profits.


    Waldrop’s construction interests have been connected to several city financed contracts, and he a longtime proponent of Mayor John “Buddy” Dyer. While Paulson, is for at least the next two months, the most well-financed opponent the Mayor has ever faced.


    The Sentinel parses words after Paulson described partnering with Waldrop’s group, when he provided 100 vacation vouchers for veterans to travel to Cancun, Mexico – valued at $1,900.00 a pop… a total gift of $190,000.00. Waldrop exclaimed that there was no formal partnership.


    Is this really a point of contention that needed to be made? Instead of highlighting the fact that Paulson’s group donated nearly $200,000, Mr. Weiner felt the need to conjure up a dramatic difference of opinion between two charity heads on opposite sides of the political discourse.


    A document obtained by the East Orlando Post, which was also provided to the Orlando Sentinel, shows the Development Manager of Waldrop’s Camaraderie Foundation sending Mr. Paulson a thank you email and acknowledgement of receipt for the vouchers.



    “We appreciate you thinking of us again this year,” stated Jackie Nelson – the groups Development Manager.


    This interesting response directly contradicts Waldrop’s explanation of the relationship between the two groups, pointing to the existence of a continuing charitable donation from Paulson’s group to Waldrop’s Camaraderie Foundation.


    A partnership as defined by Merriam Webster… “The way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.”


    Alas, the Sentinel and Mr. Weiner must have not had their copy of the dictionary handy – as most good journalists do. Instead, the default description provided by Dyer supporter and high-dollar donor Waldrop proved an equally reputable way of quantifying the definition of relationship.


    In the end, the Orlando Sentinel’s harshly worded and lopsided review of Paul Paulson exposed a long known bias the Sentinel has shown in favor of current Mayor John “Buddy” Dyer. One has to wonder when their review of John “Buddy” Dyer’s indictment for absentee ballot fraud in minority communities will be subject to a “Breaking News / News” article in the Orlando Sentinel.


    Or his harassment and bullying focus on private ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft, who remain direct competitors of one of Dyer’s largest campaign contributors – Mears Taxi company. Or his leading the charge for consistent tax increases to finance the cities addiction to taxpayer financed sports stadiums and lavish buildings? All of course bolstered by commentary of political foes of Mayor Dyer.


    I remain hopeful that we will see such an article, but if this Weiner’s article is indicative of the Sentinel’s attitude toward Paulson over the next two months – that is troubling. Why would the regions preeminent paper would work so hard to continue the reign of a career politician over giving a fair shake to a business leader and veteran who is seeking to provide Orlando with an alternative to a slick talking wheeler dealer Mayor who would fit in with Chicago’s notorious Mayor Daley?


    I guess they are not as committed to the well being of the residents of the City Beautiful as they would like us to think.



    Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at info@eastorlandopost.com