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St. Pete Developer Being Investigated For Influence Peddling
By RICHARD MULLINS | The Tampa Tribune
Published: June 11, 2008
Updated: 04:16 pm

St. Petersburg-based developer Sembler Co. has attracted the attention of federal investigators looking into influence peddling in Florida, according to published reports.

According to the Palm Beach Post, Sembler paid a $100,000 fee to Florida lobbyist Hugo Unruh "after being told it would be hard to win county approval for a traffic-throttling shopping center without him," the paper wrote recently. The message that Sembler needed to pay the fee came from Boynton Beach government officials.

Sembler officials declined to comment on the report.

Reporter Richard Mullins can be reached at (813) 259-7919 or [email protected].

http://www2.tbo.com/content/2008/jun/11/st-pete-developer-being-investigated-influence-ped/?news-money
 

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Sembler lobbyist fee reportedly draws federal attention
By Cristina Silva, Times Staff Writer
Posted: Jun 11, 2008 12:55 PM

ST. PETERSBURG The Sembler Co. is reportedly part of a federal corruption investigation in Palm Beach County after the company paid a lobbyist $100,000 to help obtain approval for a Boynton Beach shopping center.

Sembler, an influential St. Petersburg developer, hired Hugo Unruh in 2005 to lobby the Palm Beach County Commission. Unruh's unusually high fee has drawn the interest of federal investigators, who have spent recent years investigating corruption in Palm Beach, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Sembler, founded by former U.S. ambassador Mel Sembler, proposed the 400,000-square-foot Boynton Town Center in early 2004.

After a community group formed to oppose the shopping center, Sembler officials approached Boynton Beach Mayor Jerry Taylor for his advice. Taylor said he recommended Unruh, a semiretired local lobbyist.

"He is very effective," said Taylor, who was an aide to a Palm Beach county commissioner at the time. "There are lots of lobbyists, but he is definitely the one that is probably the most well known."

The shopping center was unanimously approved months later and is under construction.

It's unclear what Unruh was directed to do or what the $100,000 fee covered. Sembler officials declined to comment.

Sembler is the national developer behind local projects such as Centro Ybor in Tampa's Ybor City and BayWalk in downtown St. Petersburg.

Federal officials do not confirm ongoing investigations, said an official in the U.S. attorney's Palm Beach office.

Palm Beach has had problems with lobbyists in the past. Two county commissioners were convicted of corruption in recent years for their dealings with a prominent lobbyist.

But Taylor said he is confident that Sembler's lobbying tactics were above board.

"We wanted a shopping center because it would increase our tax base," Taylor said. "We couldn't be more pleased. We think Sembler is doing a super job."

Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or [email protected]. Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

[Last modified: Jun 11, 2008 06:30 PM]

http://www.tampabay.com/news/humaninterest/article618491.ece
 

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Doesn't sound too bad, but yes, it seems that the local government should be getting investigated than Sembler
 
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