Corruption in Tallahassee? FBI to Decide.

Corruption in Tallahassee? FBI to Decide.

On September 15, 2010, Commissioners Ziffer, Lightsey, and Gillum joined forces with Mayor John Marks to approve the city’s participation in a $1.6 million federal grant with partners that included the Alliance for Digital Equality (ADE) and The Go Beyond Foundation.

The federal grant won by the city of Tallahassee was part of a program administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) with the goal to expand access to broadband services in the United States. The federal government provided $4.7 billion to NTIA to establish the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) to increase broadband access and adoption; provide broadband training and support to schools, libraries, healthcare providers, and other organizations; improve broadband access to public safety agencies; and stimulate demand for broadband.

The federal grant was secured by an application written and submitted to the NTIA by Carrie Blanchard, on March 13, 2010. At the time, she was the chief aide to Mayor John Marks.

After talking to sources, it has been determined that several documents have been turned over to the FBI because of concern about the relationship between Mayor John Marks and the vendors included in the grant application.

Sources indicate there are primarily three concerns. First it appears that the two vendors, Alliance Digital for Equality and Go Beyond were included in the grant application, which originated in the Mayor’s office, without a competitive bid process.

Second, Mayor Marks serves on the board of Alliance Digital for Equality and has received approximately $66,000 in compensation since 2007. And finally, Mayor Marks, on September 15, 2010, voted to partner with ADE without abstaining or disclosing his financial relationship with ADE.

On September 16, 2010 John Marks accepted the federal grant by signing a US Department of Commerce document that obligated the signer to follow specific federal rules. The federal rules the Mayor agreed to follow address how vendors are selected and the existence of potential conflicts of interest.

The federal rules state “all procurement transactions will be conducted in a manner providing full and open competition.” Sources indicate that no open competition existed for the awards given to Go Beyond and ADE. A search of Commission records revealed no evidence of a request for proposal addressing the program.

With regard to conflicts of interest, federal rules state the following:

“No employee, officer or agent of the grantee…shall participate in selection, or in the award or administration of a contract supported by Federal funds if a conflict of interest, real or apparent, would be involved. Such a conflict would arise when the employee, officer or agent….has a financial or other interest in the firm selected for award.”

Federal tax filings list Mayor Marks as an Alliance for Digital Equality board member and show that Mayor Marks was paid $19,000 in 2007, $24,000 in 2008 and $23,000 in 2009. The Alliance for Digital Equality website currently lists Mayor Marks as a member of their board of advisors. Sources tell Tallahassee Reports that Mayor Marks did receive payments from ADE in 2010.

Tallahassee Reports will post supporting documents related to this story on March 29th at 4:00 pm.

More on this can be seen in a video posted on WCTV. Watch it here.

10 Responses to "Corruption in Tallahassee? FBI to Decide."

  1. When you consider the track record of the Justice Department under Att. Gen. Holder it is unlikely anything will come of this. I question whether the “investigation” will be thorough. Look at the track record. If anything does come of it the race card will be played and that will be the end of it.

  2. The Governor has been notifed of the corruption that rampant in this local government of cronies. The commissioners have played the card of “we didn’t know he was a board member” and that’s just lame. Give me a break, they are in his back pocket and are a rubber stamp for any agenda item this dirty politican wants to do….they are a part of scheme and have been feeding off of his gravey train for years. It’s time to pay the piper boys!! Everyone needs to inform the Governor’s office about this; with enough people filling up his inbox, he will have to investigate it. Rick Scott already threw one bum out…it’s time he do the same here in Tallahassee.

  3. The title of a Calvin & Hobbes comic collection says it all, “There’s Treasure Everywhere!”

    You don’t have to dig very deep, and you can pick any direction or location. If you dig into Tallahassee government, you’re going to hit treasure on corruption, with the tacit support of the Tallahassee Democrat through their silence or under-reporting.

    Good work, Steve, on finding this treasure about Mayor Marks. Keep it up!

    When you’re ready for another story, take a look at the noble cause of historic preservation in Tallahassee…an Architectural Review Board receiving grants from a committee which includes the director of Tallahassee Trust for Historic Preservation who prepares applications for their vote….a nearly blank neighborhood application unanimously voted with virtually no discussion over huge neighborhood opposition….rezoning for historic overlay originated by the planning department in violation of city codes….and all ignored by the local paper, with the exception of an article praising the crooked system as being effective. They are turning “Historic Preservation” into a epithet in Tallahassee, to the detriment of all.

  4. It is truly discouraging to live in a city that is as corrupt as Tallahassee is. This latest episode is by far not the worst nor will it be the last. As long as the majority of this town are tied into the leftist government/education cabal, there is little hope for change. Add to this environment a newspaper and broadcast media that is on the side of the cabal and there goes our chances for reform. The bright side is Tallahassee Reports and Steve Stewart. TR is what a news source and journalism should be. And Steve would have made a damn fine mayor.

    1. So embarrassing. If you looked closely at the last Northeast Chronicle that the local paper puts out, there was an article by Jane Marks, the Mayors wife that was touting her husbands ‘shop local’ efforts.

      Now most of us don’t have $100 or a whole Saturday to gallivant with highbrow friends because we are too busy trying to figure out how to pay our taxes and utility bills. What was most telling was that the picture of the ‘Saturday Shoppers’ on the front page included the Mayor, his wife, and their friends including Sally Karioth, who just happens to be the wife of Gerald Ensley. ko-inkadink?

      Why in the world would anyone at the local paper print anything disparaging about this tight group? Two days after the Marks ethics complaint broke, it appeared on page 4b. 4B!

  5. I began to suspect Marks when he pushed so hard to establish a coal fired generating plant in Tallahassee and often wondered what it was that prompted him to support a project that even a five year old knows is inherent with problems.

    Marks lost over three million dollars of taxpayer money on this venture.

    My suspicions don’t stop here..

    I again wondered about his honesty and integrity when he pushed for the smart meter program then awarded the contract to Honeywell without a competitive bid. I knew that Marks was an attorney for Honeywell and was getting paid for the position he held. Thus he had an interest in Honeywell, the company that got the smart meter contract without bid process.

    In addition the statistics cited by Marks during his justification of installing red light cameras I have found to be flawed as in some states, (Colorado for one) research shows an increase in traffic accidents at camera-equipped intersections. This leads me to wonder if Marks has a personal interest in the company providing and monitoring Tallahassee’s red light cameras.

    Now we hear of continuing allegations of conflicts of interest concerning two groups Marks is affiliated with that got grant money again at the behest of Marks and without proper protocol being followed by both the city council and the recipients.

    Our city is in dire need of revenue while our so-called mayor can think of only sources of additional income as opposed to proper use of the money we already have.

    Mister Mayor, you have proven yourself worthy of shame on more occasions than are listed here. I welcome the ongoing investigation of your actions by the FBI. My sincere hopes are that if these allegations have merit that you be removed from office as fast as you award no bid contracts.

  6. Drove up next to Mayor Marks the other day in traffic on Cap. Circle NE. Was he driving a “Green” vehicle? Was he walking the talk that we are forced to pay for each month with “our” electric bill? No. He was driving a LARGE body, LARGE displacement, LARGE dollar, NON-domestic vehicle. He says one thing he does another……. Unfortunately I am a county resident and did not get to vote for his opponent this past election cycle.
    Why should this new act of hypocrisy be unexpected from someone who has shown that he will not walk his own talk?

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