St. Cloud Councilman Donny Shroyer had liens against his properties reduced 90%, saving him over $9,000 without going before the St. Cloud Council.
By Jacob Engels
Two-term career politician Donny Shroyer has long been in the pocket of developers. After all, this is a man who voted against charging higher impact fees on new development, voted against a freeze on new development and has approved countless new homes during his six years in office.
So it should come as no surprise that Shroyer wanted to get into the real estate game. Regrettably, it appears he chose to rig the system to guarantee himself a profit, instead of earning his keep the old fashioned way.
Shroyer concocted a clever scheme. The Councilman used his inside knowledge to purchase two properties in a depressed area of St. Cloud, that he knew the police were targeting for improved enforcement. He bought these properties knowing they owed tens of thousands of dollars in City and County liens. These properties were purchased at a steep discount because of the massive liens owed to local governments. Mr. Shroyer knew he could make a tidy profit if he used his influence as a St. Cloud Councilman to have those liens reduced.
On December 10, 2015 Councilman Shroyer sent a letter to the St. Cloud City Manager Joe Helfenberger, asking for a reduction in the liens on his properties (see letter #1). The City Manager promptly recommended a whopping 90% reduction in the $10,264 owed on the two properties (see forms #2). The Code Enforcement Special Magistrate accepted Helfenberger’s recommendation and the item was NEVER brought before the City Council. This action saved Shroyer $9,238 that he owed the City.
VIEW THE EVIDENCE:
For context, 90% is an extraordinary reduction. Applicants will often receive a partial reduction in liens. Usually the amount waved will be the administrative fees or interest that was charged. This might come to 30% to 50%. A 90% reduction with a $9,000 savings is a true sweetheart deal, particularly when this is not a hardship case, but an investor who bought the property with full knowledge the money is owed.
Our sources at St. Cloud City Hall have informed us that Councilman Shroyer was extremely aggressive in the pressure he put on the City Manager to reduce the liens on his properties, intimating that Helfenberger’s job was on the line if he didn’t come through.
Shroyer also requested that Osceola County reduce the $27,000 in liens he owed the County on the same two properties. The County staff recommended against Shroyer’s request and the County Commission voted unanimously not to reduce the liens on Shoyer’s properties (see minutes #3). It does not look good that, the County where Shroyer holds little influence rejected his request… whereas in the City where Shroyer is on the Council… he received a 90% reduction.
To make matters worse, when Shroyer was before the County Commission, he lied to them about a non-existent policy where the City gives investors a 90% lien reduction if they buy blighted property. We made a public records request with the City and we were informed that no such policy exists and there are no examples of any other investors that received a deal like Shroyer. (Shroyer’s lie starts at 2:37:50 mark).
The corruption gets even worse. The City of St. Cloud is currently considering improvements to water and sewer in the area where Shroyer’s properties are located. Shroyer has directed multiple staff to work toward these improvements that will increase the value of his property.
These improvements have been discussed at City Council workshops and at the Council meeting on 9-14-2017 (see minutes and emails #4). At no time during any of these meetings has Shroyer disclosed his conflict of interest.
SEE THE DOCUMENTS AGAIN:
Now comes the final insult. Councilman Donny Shroyer has NOT paid the property taxes on these properties in over two years (see Tax Collector report #5), Shroyer owes over $2,400 in unpaid property taxes. You may recall in 2013, Councilman Shroyer voted for a property tax increase (see minutes #6). Now, this tax-raising politician refuses to pay his own property taxes!
Clearly Mr. Shroyer is using his elected position to enrich himself. This is not only a violation of the public trust, it is a violation of state law. The following steps must be taken to restore public confidence in the St. Cloud Government:
*The St. Cloud Mayor should send a letter to the State’s Attorney asking for a full investigation into this matter. Mr. Helfenburger must be questioned under oath as to the pressure Councilman Shroyer employed to receive these extraordinary reductions.
*Councilman Shroyer should pay his property taxes immediately!
*The City Council should implement a policy that will prevent future elected officials or senior staff from having their fines or liens reduced without Council approval.
*Councilman Shroyer should pay all outstanding liens immediately!
*The City Council should implement a policy that will prohibit Council members from directing staff to explore City funded improvements to property they own without full Council approval.
*The St. Cloud Mayor should send a letter to Osceola County clarifying that Councilman Shroyer lied to them to enrich himself and that St. Cloud has no policy where they forgive investor liens.
*If Mr. Helfenberger corroborates our sources and confirms he was pressured into giving Councilman Shroyer these massive lien reductions, then Councilman Shroyer must resign.
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, Fox News, and Australia’s New Dawn Magazine. 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.