Dr. Karen Rubin, the TAPP Progam Coordinator from 2012-2014, told TR that City Commissioner Nancy Miller directed city staff to take the steps needed to assure the TAPP program contract would be awarded to a business controlled by Paige Carter-Smith and affiliated with Gary Yordon.
The City of Tallahassee Charter calls for the removal of any city commissioner that gives orders or makes demands of city staff. From the city charter:
Neither the commission nor any member thereof shall give orders to, nor make demands of, any of the subordinates of any appointed city official, either publicly or privately. Any such dictation, orders, demands or other interference upon the part of a member of the city commission with the administration of the city shall constitute grounds for removal from office;
At the time Ms. Carter-Smith was the registered agent of the Big Production, which has successfully secured the contract to provide services for the TAPP program for a number of years.
Ms. Carter-Smith’s name was included on both subpoenas recently served on the City of Tallahassee.
Based on the subpoenas, documents associated with the TAPP program will be turned over to federal investigators.
TR wrote exclusively about the process that resulted in the highest bidder – the Big Production – being awarded the TAPP contract in 2014.
Dr. Rubin told TR that her effort to lay the groundwork to competitively bid the TAPP program in 2013, instead of favoring the Big Production, infuriated City Commissioner Nancy Miller and resulted in text message inquiries from Gary Yordon.
Cynthia Barber, who was Rubin’s boss, told Rubin in a meeting in mid-2014 that Miller wanted Yordon to have the contract and if that did not happen her career would be hurt.
Dr. Rubin wrote about the meeting in a September 2014 email to then city Manager Anita Favors:
I continue to have MAJOR concerns about verbal directives given in a meeting about Gary’s pre-chosen status because Mrs. Barber’s “career could not withstand the fall out if he was NOT selected as the TAPP vendor on a guaranteed basis”
Documents provided to TR are consistent with Rubin’s claim she was exploring a competitive bid for the project.
An email to Rubin from Tom Frick of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection -FDEP provided TAPP grant funding – on August 16, 2013 gave Rubin the go ahead to seek competitive bids:
When DEP is awarded a grant from the feds we are authorized to follow our State’s procurement requirements. When dealing with another governmental entity our sub-grantee is responsible for complying with the federal requirements.
Additionally, we’ve talked with EPA and they have no problem with a change in vendors as long as an acceptable product that meets the application/grant agreement is completed.
When Mr. Yordon sensed the Big Production might have to compete for the contract, he sent text messages to Dr. Rubin.
In a text message in January 2014, Yordon asked Rubin “Have you been discussing producing TAPP with anyone at MVP production studio.”
Later Yordon, in a text message, asked Dr. Rubin, “regardless of whatever confusion there might have been, can I trust you and I are both on the same page that I will be producing the next TAPP television PSA’s?”
An image of the text is show below.
When Rubin removed the Big Production from the workplan and submitted the document to the Florida DEP, Rubin says she was instructed by Cynthia Barber in a phone call on May 1st, 2014 to put the Big Production back in the document.
The email below, from FDEP’s Patricia Sanzone on June 5, 2014, describes the on-again, off-again nature of the process surrounding the vendor selection:
Through questions in writing from Karen and from you in our previous phone call, I thought the city wanted to add a specific contractor/vendor to the work plan. Gary Jordan’s (sic) company had been in the original grant application, but had been pulled from the work plan. It was my understanding that the city wanted to bid the PSA production work. However, in recent months it seems a decision has been made to use Gary’s company.
In the end Rubin said the whole process wore her down. She said it became a challenge to do what was right.
Dr. Rubin told TR that Commissioner Miller’s constant micromanaging of the TAPP program was present when she started and present throughout her tenure.
She said she was shocked a city employee actually thought a sitting city commissioner should be consulted about the TAPP budget.
But that is what happened.
An email sent from a city employee in the stormwater department to Dr. Rubin recommended that Commissioner Miller and her husband, John Buss, be consulted on the 2013 budget for TAPP.
You and I need to set down and go over the 2013 budget, get it like we want it and then take it to John Buss and Cynthia for tweaking. I personally think that we should talk with Nancy as well but that needs to run by Cynthia and John Buss.
Dr. Rubin resigned her position in September 2014 and is currently working at a higher education institution outside the state of Florida.