A group named the Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce created less than two years ago, on July 31, 2012, and headed by lobbyists and Mayor Marks long time campaign manager Sean Pittman and Tallahassee Lawyer Harold Knowles, is seeking to be added to the governance structure that will have influence over when and how Blueprint money will be spent over the next twenty years.
On April 22, 2014, County and City Commissioners will decide if the Big Bend Minority Chamber (BBMC) will get a seat on the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) which will provide oversight and guidance with regards to the traditional Blueprint infrastructure projects.
The elected officials will also decide if the BBMC gets a seat on the Economic Development Coordinating Committee (EDCC) which will evaluate and recommend economic development projects for Blueprint funding.
The fact that the BBMC is included as part of the governance structure recommendation drafted by County staff is surprising since the final report by the Sales Tax Committee recommended a governance structure for economic development projects that did not include the BBMC.
A review of the agenda for the public meeting indicates that the BBMC was added to the governance structure by County staff.
The involvement of the BBMC in the Blueprint process has raised a number of concerns behind the scenes with few people willing to go on the record due to the parties involved.
However, now that the process has reached the public meeting stage, both elected officials and citizens will get an opportunity to weigh in on the issue.
The controversy stems not only from the ability of such a new group to get such powerful appointments so quickly, but also from the people who started and are involved with the organization.
Both Sean Pittman and Harold Knowles are listed as Officers of the organization and have a number of ties to Mayor John Marks. Both have been involved with controversial financial dealings.
Sean Pittman has been the Mayor’s campaign manager and is a lobbyist for the City of Tallahassee. He was also involved with the Alliance for Digital Equality controversy surrounding Mayor John Marks and has represented a number of City vendors.
Harold Knowles has recently been in the news for his role in providing legal guidance to the struggling Bond Health Care Clinic. He has also made news over a controversial fence contract through the City of Tallahassee shortly after John Marks was elected Mayor.
The meeting of the County and City Commissions will be held on April 22, 2014 at 12:00 pm in the Leon County Commission Chambers.