In response to a TR investigation, Dustin Daniels, Mayor Gillum’s Chief of Staff, told Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat that the software purchased from a self described progressive/liberal vendor was needed by the Mayor’s Office to communicate with constituents.
“We use it for our communications with constituents for large events like the Longest Table or our community summit on children, which requires thousands of messages and interactions with specific lists of community members,” he said.
However, the City of Tallahassee and taxpayers invest approximately $1.5 million each year to employ approximately 14 people in the City’s Communications Department.
The listed goals of the Communications Department are:
- to inform citizens about city government and foster a desire for citizens to be involved with their city government,
- serve as the primary conduit of important information for citizens regarding city projects, and
- increase the departmental use of television to create citizen awareness, and utilizing highly creative communication techniques to attract attention to city projects among the vast array of issues competing for citizens’ attention.
Also, the City’s Communications Department has the following resources:
- an e-mail subscription service which has 19,199 subscribers with over 1.34 million emails sent via the subscription system from January to December 2014,
- 21 Facebook accounts with over 33,092 “fans” and
- 12 twitter accounts with 25,351 followers.
So with all of this communication infrastructure, why does the Mayor’s Office spend money on their own software?
With the Mayor’s Office refusing to answer probing questions, TR is left to investigate through public records requests and by interviewing campaign experts.
Sources told TR that Gillum could be using the NGP VAN software to build a database so that when the time is right, a simple push of a button would allow for campaign fundraising and volunteer activities to begin.
The founder of NGP VAN, Nathaniel Pearlman, explained the uses of the software this way:
Well, there’s a lot of very specialized things that campaigns do that aren’t part of a standard CRM package that you might use or blast email tool or something. Those include you have to file, if you run for a federal office, you have to file a Federal Election Commission report.That’s all the spending that you make in a campaign and all the money in a particular format. Like a tax return.
If you run in a state-level contest, you have to do that with state reports and city reports. They all have different formats. That’s quite different. There are also things like canvassing, going door-to-door, managing your relationship with people out in the field. It’s a broad range of very specialized tasks that all have to be centered together in one piece of technology.
TR will continue to investigate and will report when new information becomes available.