ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- Sarasota Congressman Vern Buchanan is taking a lot of heat for avoiding a deposition in a case involving his former partner, who alleges the congressman solicited illegal campaign contributions. Buchanan says he didn't show up because his attorney was ill.
Bob Stok, the attorney for Buchanan's former partner, says he doesn't believe the story about Buchanan's sick attorney. Stok believes it is just another attempt by the Sarasota Republican congressman to avoid testifying under oath despite the fact that he was ordered to by a judge.
The Florida Democratic Party is firing back with a wanted poster showing that Buchanan is avoiding the deposition with what some call the "dog ate my homework" excuse. In addition to being blasted by his opposing attorney and the Democratic Party, Buchanan's Democratic opponent, former State Representative Keith Fitzgerald, suggests that Buchanan is avoiding his civic and legal responsibility by failing to show for the deposition.
Some suspect Buchanan made his excuse because he had a huge fundraiser scheduled at Lakewood Ranch that he would have missed had he been at the deposition scheduled in Orlando. Some are saying the no-show was part of the plan.
Fitzgerald held a conference call with reporters and said, "I think it's disgraceful. Everybody understands that running for Congress these days includes fundraising, and I certainly don't criticize him for having fundraisers, but he has a basic obligation as a citizen to respect the legal process more than he does to raise money, and I think it says a lot about where his values are."
Stok says he will seek criminal sanctions against Buchanan and ask a judge to put him in jail for contempt for not showing up.
Buchanan is also being investigated by the IRS, the FBI, and is the target of a federal grand jury. No one from the Buchanan office was available to talk to us. The deposition has been rescheduled.