The race for City Commission seat 2 is heating up.
Today at the Florida Press Center, Steven Hougland, who is running against current City Commissioner Curtis Richardson, revealed that his opponent accepted $750 in campaign contributions from a city vendor on the same day the City Commission voted to extend the vendor’s contract.
The vote referenced by Mr. Hougland took place on October 28th, 2015 when the City Commission voted to extend lobbying contracts for 3 lobbyists without taking competitive bids. The vote approved contracts with two lobbyists for $90,000 annually and a third lobbyist for $40,000 annually.
Mr. Richardson has cast votes to award lucrative contracts to vendors that are helping finance his campaign.
The most egregious example is the October 28, 2015 vote to extend lobbying contracts for 3 lobbyists without taking competitive bids.
Mr. Richardson’s own campaign report shows that all three lobbyists have donated to his campaign. One lobbyist (William Peebles) donated $750 less than a month before the October 28th vote. Another donated $750 in February/March of this year. Finally, the third lobbyist (Ron Book) donated a total of $1500 with $750 being donated on the very day of the contract extension vote.
TR reviewed the minutes of the meeting and discovered the vote was controversial. At the meeting, Commissioner Ziffer expressed dismay that, just before session, the Commission was left with no other option but to extend said lobbying contracts, and requested that a discussion regarding lobbyist contracts be placed on the agenda in the near future.
Hougland also provided information that indicated Richardson accepted 37 campaign checks totaling over $8,000 from vendors doing business with the city.
Hougland said “In the Leon County School Superintendent’s race, we’ve seen complaints of favoritism and awarding construction contracts to individuals or entities that made political contributions. Mr. Richardson’s voting record favoring political contributors is no different.”
He then asked Richardson to return the campaign contributions. “I am publicly asking Mr. Richardson to return the money he accepted from vendors,” said Hougland.
Hougland also proposed a change in policy that would make it illegal for vendors to donate to campaigns. He provided copies of the ordinance recently adopted by the City of Miami and said “I am also asking the city commission to restore integrity to the campaign process and to the vendor selection process by passing a version of the Miami Beach ordinance, which would immediately ban the practice for future elections.”
There is one true, inescapable fact here:
If you act like a crook, you will be treated like a crook.
Legal or not, this is certainly immoral and unethical. I also ask, where is our ethics commission?
You are exactly right, many things that are legal are still unethical. Don’t let our elected commissioners hide behind the “it’s legal” defense. It is certainly a conflict of interest for a city commissioner to vote on a contract to be awarded to one of his campaign contributors. Businesses doing business with the city have a right to make a campaign contribution (buy influence) to a city commissioner, or candidate, but the candidate also has a right, and ethical duty to to decline such contributions.
How can this be an exclusive when the Democrat also has the story?
True, Jim. And Democrat had video where Hougland himself admits there is nothing illegal about the contributions. Selective fact-telling, not exclusive and definitely biased.
City commissioners are stealing us blind and you want to discuss the definition of “exclusive “! This is same self serving logic and misdirection used by John marks!
The Florida Ethics code exempts campaign contributions from the definition of gifts.
Our own ethics commission should act! Where are they?
But the city ordinance doesn’t specify “gift”, it states, “…anything of value”.
Besides,just because something is deemed lawful doesn’t make it ethical.
The way to stop this is to pass an ordinance that would require a contractor or vendor to repay the amount of any government contract if they gave any elected official money and make it retroactive for five years.
It would stop this in a heart beat.
To my understanding, there is already an ordinance in place that is being ignored or at least poorly interpreted.
Ordinances of the City of Tallahassee Part 1 Chapter 2 Article VIII, ASec. 2-344
Prohibited Conduct of City Officials and Employees
(a) No member of the city commission or employee of the city shall solicit or accept as compensation, payment, favor, service, OR “THING OF VALUE” (which should include campaign contributions) from a lobbyist…..
However many take the legal position that this does not apply to Campaign contributions. I think that is poor interpretation of the ordinance.
Are you a lawyer?
It’s also time we stop reelecting self serving politician like Curtis Richardson
I have pointed out the self serving actions by our city commissioners for years. It is past time for “our” ethics commission to take action against unethical city commissioners!
Don’t we have a ethics commission for this?
This is from the Florida Ethics Commission handbook:
“No county, municipal, or other local public officer shall vote in an official capacity upon any measure which would inure to his or her special private gain or loss, or which the officer knows would inure to the special private gain or loss of any principal by whom he or she is retained, of the parent organization or subsidiary or sibling of a corporate principal by which he or she is retained, of a relative, or of a business associate. The officer must publicly announce the nature of his or her interest before the vote and must file a memorandum of voting conflict on Commission Form 8B with the meeting’s recording officer within 15 days after the vote occurs disclosing the nature of his or her interest in the matter. However, members of community redevelopment agencies and district officers elected on a one-acre, one-vote basis are not required to abstain when voting in that capacity.”
That sure didn’t stop Marx from making some Honey(well) deals, did it?
Marx had attorney Barry Richard representing him and no ‘disciplinary’ board of any kind wants to tangle with Barry Richard. He represented President Bush in the 2000 election recount, and he was a Democrat representing a Republican.
Hougland’s suggestion is the exact way many cities handle such potential conflicts of interest. Makes a lot of sense.
I agree Mr Scott
Agreed, it makes sense.