ON THE TAKE: Rinehart Becomes Developer Lobbyist

Instead of becoming a contestant on the next season of Bar Rescue, Jeff Rinehart has found a way to cash in through city politicking.

By Jacob Engels

Former St. Cloud Councilman Jeff Reinhart who was trounced in last year’s election has a new job lobbying on behalf of a developer looking for a sweetheart deal to buy part of Stevens Plantation. You remember Rinehart, the bar owner turned politician who had an inept one term on the Council.

Among his greatest hits include out of control residential growth, property tax increases (http://eastorlandopost.com/rinehart-supported-tax-increases-pay-raise-city-manager ), giving a massive raise to the City Manager and then firing him 3 months later, hiring a new City Manager who was so bad he was fired in less than a year, violating the City Charter ( http://eastorlandopost.com/rinehart-admits-he-violated-city-charter ), and being investigated for abusive behavior with city employees ( http://eastorlandopost.com/councilman-rinehart-accused-intimidation-abuse ).

Rinehart has sunk to a new low trying to cash in on his City connections lobbying for a sketchy real estate development.

It should surprise no one that Rinehart would become a developer lobbyist. While on the Council he consistently supported reckless annexations and never met a developer deal he didn’t like. What is surprising is why the Council would listen to his advice.

As a Councilman, Rinehart put together a controversial deal to give city land to a developer from Qatar to build a 15 Story building in St. Cloud. This developer then funded a smear campaign on Rinehart’s behalf in Rinehart’s failed bid to become Mayor (http://eastorlandopost.com/rinehart-corruption-scandal-rocks-st-cloud-mayoral-race).

Local citizens objected to the boondoggle because it would destroy St. Cloud’s small town charm. They did not need to worry. The deal appears to have been an enormous failure with the City left holding the bag.

Now Rinehart is back with a new scheme to help a developer take over part of Stevens Plantation. Rinehart has been keeping the details murky as it appears the plan keeps changing. City official have expressed their unease with Rinehart’s involvement.

In order to push though his deal, Rinehart is hosting a fundraiser for St. Cloud Council member Donald Shroyer. We know that a politician taking money from a developer lobbyist like Rinehart is not news. But Shroyer’s ties to Rinehart may clear up why Councilman Shroyer fought so hard against increasing impact fees on real estate development. Impact fees force developers to pay for the effect they will have on City services.

Without these impact fees the tax burden falls on current residents instead of the new growth. Many are connecting Shroyer’s opposition to the fees to his desire for developer contributions. Fortunately, the City Council passed the fees on new development over Shroyer’s objections.

Maybe its time for Jeff Rinehart to go back to his bar. St. Cloud doesn’t need any anymore of his backroom developer deals.


Jacob Engels is an Orlando based journalist whose work has been featured and republished in news outlets around the globe including Politico, InfoWars, MSNBC, Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Daily Mail UK, Associated Press, People Magazine, ABC, and Fox News to name a few. Mr. Engels focuses on stories that other news outlets neglect or willingly hide to curry favor among the political and business special interests in the state of Florida.