In February of this year, Mayor Andrew Gillum told the Tallahassee Democrat that he paid travel expenses out of his office account on three different occasions for his travel companions.
However, public records indicate that Gillum failed to detail those expenses in his latest office account report filed with the Leon County Supervisor of Elections.
Elected officials can create office accounts by transferring unspent campaign funds for future use. The use of the funds is regulated by Florida Statutes. For example, F.S. 106.141 says in reference to office accounts; “Any funds so transferred by a candidate shall be used only for legitimate expenses in connection with the candidate’s public office.”
To verify that an expenditure is appropriate, Florida statutes also require elected officials to file reports detailing expenses.
However, the reports filed by Gillum bundles over $5,000 in expenses under his name and his aides name without detailing what funds went to cover specific expenses.
Gillum revealed in February, that he and his aide, Dustin Daniels, traveled to Chattanooga TN, Charleston S.C., and Pittsburgh PA, with Sean Pittman, the city’s lobbyist and Adam Corey, Gillum’s former campaign treasurer and a contractor with the City of Tallahassee.
Who paid for their expenses?
Gillum said, “They all paid for themselves and I paid for their hotels.”
However, the report provided below shows no details.
For example, on October 3, 2014 Gillium reported a reimbursement for just over $1,600 for a trip to Chattanooga under his name only. His previous comments made it clear that campaign funds were used for more than just himself.
Gillum’s aide, Dustin Daniels told the Tallahassee Democrat that “The Pittsburgh trip was not an official trip…”.
No details were provided for the other two trips.
In contrast, City Commissioner Gil Ziffer, who also has an office account, provided detailed information about each of his expenses. In fact, Ziffer’s report shows that he paid for the recent Chamber of Commerce trip to Boulder, CO out of his office account – forgoing the use of taxpayer funds.
What are the ramifications for Gillum?
The statutes are clear in stating expenses are limited to the elected official and staff – Mr. Pittman and Mr. Corey are neither.
However, as with many campaign laws, ambiguous language and bureaucratic enforcement provisions allows elected officials, if they choose, to successfully avoid the intent of the laws with little fear of consequences.