During a City Commission meeting on Wednesday, February 12, 2014, City Commissioner Scott Maddox stated that he had a conflict on an agenda item that involved the development of vacant land on the corner of Tennessee Street and North Monroe.
Commissioner Maddox did not disclose the nature of the conflict. However, previous research indicates that Gary Yordon – an employee of Governance – is a registered lobbyist for the developer, the Mckibbon Hotel Group (MHG). Commissioner Maddox has listed Governance as a source of income on his most recent financial disclosure form..
On three previous occasions when this issue was addressed by the City Commission, Commissioner Maddox failed to announce a conflict and simply got up and walked out when a vote was taken. The video below shows Commissioner leaving the Commission Chambers on two separate occasions.
Why is this important?
The Florida Commission on Ethics has previously issued a summary opinion that states:
“an official who temporarily absents himself from the portion of a meeting at which he would be presented with a voting conflict of interest still is required to announce the basis of the conflict and to file a memorandum of voting conflict as provided in Section 112.3143(3), Florida Statutes.”
The opinion continues with:
“the failure to make a disclosure when required to do so would violate the law just as would the failure to abstain. The statute contains not only a prohibition upon a public official, but also requires the affirmative duty of disclosure so that interested parties and the public will understand why the official is abstaining from voting.”
On Wednesday, Maddox stated “under advice of counsel of the City Attorney I have previously declared a conflict on item 13.05 and the City Attorney is handling the paper work…”
However, Tallahassee Reports, after much review, could not find any place in the public record where Commissioner Maddox “previously” declared a conflict.
In fact, at the September 25, 2013 City Commission meeting, City Attorney Shelley stated with regards to Commissioner Maddox on this issue, “he does not have a conflict.”
The issue up for vote on Wednesday was whether or not to give the developer a fourth extension on an option to develop the property in question. The Commission voted 2-2, without Maddox voting, which means no extension will be granted.
With Support from City Attorney, Maddox Walks
This issue goes back to April 24, 2013, when the City Commission, with little fanfare, voted to grant a second two-year extension to MHG. A review of the video shows City Commissioner Maddox leaving the City Chambers minutes before the vote.
On September 5th, 2013, Tallahassee Reports reported that Governance, a local government consultant group, represented MHG and helped secure the original mixed-use development deal.
On their website, Governance states they “assisted the McKibbon Hotel Group by navigating the RFP process and facilitating the discussions between the city, county and community redevelopment agency (CRA). The result was McKibbon Hotels gaining the sole right to build a grand hotel and office complex.” This took place in 2006.
On September 11, 2013, when the issue came up again, Commissioner Maddox stated, “I have represented in the past, not currently, one of the entities in item 12.01 and as such will not be voting.”
Commissioner Maddox never acknowledged a conflict and in fact, as stated earlier in this report, on September 25, 2013, City Attorney Lew Shelley stated that Commissioner Maddox “does not have a conflict.”
Then why did Commissioner Maddox choose not to participate on this issue?
On September 25th, the City Attorney also revealed that he informed Commissioner Maddox that “he would happily defend him recusing himself” for just an appearance of a conflict if someone filed an action against him for not voting.
See video below:
With the full support of the City Attorney, Commissioner Maddox chose to walk out of Commission Chambers when the issue came before the City Commission – first on October 23rd and then again on November 26th– without declaring a conflict.
Tallahassee Reports, through public record requests and phone calls, attempted to determine why City Attorney Shelley was allowing Commissioner Maddox to walk out on votes, when such action appeared to be a violation of State law.
City Attorney Shelley never provided an answer.
Two days before the issue was due to come before the Commission on February 12, 2014, Tallahassee Reports once again demanded answers from the City Attorney. Again, after six phone calls and direct discussions with the City Attorney’s assistants, nothing.
Commissioner Maddox’s statement of conflict came at the February 12th City Commission meeting. However, the nature of conflict was not revealed.
What changed from September 11, 2013, when City Attorney Shelley said there was no conflict to February 12, 2014, when Commissioner Maddox acknowledged a conflict? How long has the conflict been present?
Why did City Attorney Shelley allow Commissioner Maddox to walk out on votes when no conflict existed?
Answers to these questions will ultimately determine if any laws were violated.
Congratulations on the excellent investigative reporting by your staff. As a retired Miami Herald writer/editor and published author, I find your paper heads and shoulders above all others in that long-lost basic requirement for all news outlets.
I’m speaking about the outrageous revelations you have uncovered about Scott Maddox and Gary Yordan, as well as the malfeasance of the city council attorney , Lew Shelley, whose basic responsibility is to be the legal watchdog against shoddy ethics and violations of state law by its members. The city manager, Anita Favors, through your revelation of her putting the arm on lobbyist, city vendors and city employees for the Ziffer event should be fired and prevented from ever holding a government office again.
These financial predators have long feasted at the public trough and show an absolute disregard and arrogant contempt for the citizens. As part of the ongoing and conniving good ol’ boys/girl network these predators continue to pillage the public funds at their will.
It’s time for the able citizens of the city to attend the public meetings en masse and demand the ouster and prosecution of those city council members and manager involved in the scandals.
Petitions should be formed by those concerned citizens with the abilities to do so and present them to the state attorney general.
It’s Official!! Gabordi is worst editor!
Read how the growing numbers of readers have no confidence in the Tallahassee Democrat’s editor, Bob Gabordi. Even Bob’s employees are expressing their disdain for their editor.
The deepest point of concern here is continued complicity of the City Attorney in so many suspect actions by city officials.
So Mr Maddox declines to vote on a matter involving a former client because a conflict may exist, and TR attacks him for not making the proper announcement at the time he declines. The primary purpose of the law is to prevent voting on an issue that may result in a private benefit to the elected official. Mr Maddox complied with that obligation by not voting, apparently to the detriment of his former client.
If TR is going to expose public corruption Mr Stewart should stay more focused on the real issues of misconduct and ethical breaches, not trivia like this.
If the city would move forward on establishing an independent ethics officer, issues like this will be more professionally investigated and accurately reported.
Mr. Poitevent you need to read the article more closely. First, the law states if you have a conflict you announce a conflict and identify why the conflict exists. Commissioner Maddox failed to do this for almost a year while this issue was before the Commission. Second, this is the law because politicians would simply get up and leave on a vote instead of revealing an improper relationship that might affect other votes and other sources of income. There is a lot to this story…stay tuned Ben!
Here are the major flaws in Ben Poitevent’s response:
Commissioner Scott Maddox declined to vote because of a conflict that he previously stated was not a conflict. If Mr. Maddox was truly genuine and ethical he would have declared publicly a long time ago that there was a conflict and filed the proper paperwork.
Instead Commissioner Maddox:
1) Had the city attorney state publicly that here was no conflict when of course there most certainly was a conflict.
2) Rather than declare publicly that he will not be voting due to a conflict Commissioner Maddox slithers out of the commission chamber when the item comes up for the discussion and the vote.
These actions are reprehensible and unconscionable not to mention illegal and unethical.
Perhaps Mr. Poitevent may want to reconsider his laughable response.
During last weeks city commission meeting Scott Maddox asked anyone who felt he had acted unethically or illegally to notify the Florida Ethics Commission and FBI. Scott, I appreciate your suggestion, however, appropriate State and Federal agencies have already been notified. The Tallahassee Democrat remains silent, but Tallahassee Reports is now reaching 20,000 families in the City of Tallahassee. The truth is getting out!
Perhaps the adage,” give THEM enough rope”‘ will kick in soon.
All this sleaze could be avoided had we a responsible electorate. The voters know this yet continue to vote into office or allow such appointments.
Why has the Tallahassee Democrat ignored this and other corruption for so long?
Answer: Because Scott Maddox’s defacto-Governance makes large media buys to the Tallahassee Democrat and Gabordi is protecting his revenue source.
This legitimately bona fide, absolutely, validates, and confirms that Editor Bob Gaborid misuses his position and is covering-up another and one of many by of the largest corruption stories in Florida that involves Maddox. Apparently Gabordi feels it is more important to accept revenues that were earned through dishonest means and frequently at the taxpayers expense than reporting the truth.
The new publisher of the Tallahassee Democrat was informed about Scott Maddox’s residency issue and almost immediately, – it was investigated, reported, and confirmed by the Tallahassee Democrat — that Maddox did not legitimately live in his district.
It should be noted that a few days before that story broke, – a female minority Tallahassee Democrat reporter was arrested on a frivolous-bogus charge at a local high-end night spot that has ties to the usual suspects. Did Scott Maddox pull some strings with his past ties to law enforcement unions to send a message that reporting his corruption has consequences?
Scott Maddox, Gary Yordon, and Bob Gabordi have earned the titles of bullies, misogynists, and cowards who misuse their position on a regular basis then dare anyone to challenge their corruption. Being that Maddox is so tight with the local sheriff and state attorney anyone who dares to question something will most certainly be doomed by the good-ole-boy network. As this testament is made by Maddox as recently at the Feb 12th meeting, -daring anyone to challenge him by reporting him to the State Attorney and Leon County Sheriff. Maddox knows that it would go nowhere and retribution is almost certain to the whistle blower.
Keep exposing their blatant corruption.
It’s so disgusting!! I know some of this personally – what can we do??
Why walk out at all? Does sitting there and not voting somehow influnce the vote?
Jon, according to state law he is not allowed that luxury. He must, by law, either: A) vote or B) declare his conflict of interest, then file a form detailing it. He was under the allusion that no one would know that his actions were illegal. That the City Attorney is providing cover is another issue that is deeply troubling.