The clear intent of the City of Tallahassee Charter is that City Commissioners should be residents when seeking office and when serving.
What is not clear are the rules set forth to enforce this Charter requirement.
However, evidence indicates the City of Tallahassee has been aware of the ambiguous enforcement rules for more than a decade and have elected to do nothing.
When former Mayor John Marks was pondering a run for Mayor of Tallahassee in the early 2000’s, he was not a resident of the City of Tallahassee.
However, Marks was the “insider pick” for the office. So the City of Tallahassee insiders set out to “fix” the residency issue.
First they tried to get the City of Tallahassee to annex his home located in the upscale neighborhood of Bobbin Brook. But the Mayor at the time blocked the move because he said he did not think that the City should provide services for a property annexed for political purposes.
That Mayor was Scott Maddox.
Subsequently, John Marks bought a condo within the City of Tallahassee boundaries to qualify as a candidate and when he was elected, the City of Tallahassee annexed Marks’ home.
No problem. Rules avoided. System rigged.
In March of 2012, Scott Maddox decided to run for a City Commission seat. He did not live in the City and so he held a press conference and said he was putting his million dollar home outside the city limits up for sale and moving to a home, located downtown on North Adams Street.
For four years the rumors and the jokes of where Maddox lived were rampant. Everyone “in the know” knew about the issue -including Mayor Andrew Gillum and the other three Commissioners. But nothing was done to clarify the enforcement mechanisms.
Now, with Mr.Maddox seeking re-election, the issue has reared it’s head again, in a very public way.
And guess what? Maddox’s million dollar home, outside the city limits, is up for sale again, four years later.
Due to the ambiguity of the law, for a lot of people, where you stand on this issue is based a great deal on how you feel about Scott Maddox.
However, at a minimum, even supporters of Mr. Maddox should demand the City of Tallahassee to clarify the rules on residency.
And the solution is as easy as this:
To qualify as a candidate for the City Commission, the City Clerk must verify that the candidate, one year before the qualifying date, was a registered voter within the city limits with the same address that is on their drivers license.
Once a candidate is elected, each year the elected official is required to provide a copy of their drivers license and their voter registration card to the City Clerk.
And finally, each year the elected official is required to provide to the City Clerk a letter from the IRS verifying the address where the elected officials personal income taxes were filed.
That is it. Simple solution. Maybe the City Commission can get this done.