Stewart’s Blog: The Tallahassee Democrat Should Leave Scott Maddox & Paige Carter-Smith Alone!

Stewart’s Blog: The Tallahassee Democrat Should Leave Scott Maddox & Paige Carter-Smith Alone!

The Tallahassee Democrat has suddenly made the agonizing decision to put their investigative resources into explaining the business relationships between City Commissioner Scott Maddox and Downtown Improvement Authority Executive Director Paige Carter-Smith.

It is amazing how bold and righteous the executives at the local paper can get when a few FBI subpoenas are dropped at city hall.

But in my view, the Tallahassee Democrat should just stop writing about City Commissioner Scott Maddox and his long-time business associate Paige Carter-Smith and let the legal process unfold.

Yes, you heard that right. Just stop! Now!


The fact is the Tallahassee Democrat has known about the real estate transactions between Maddox and Carter-Smith for years. The Democrat has had numerous opportunities, before the FBI came to town, to raise questions about these real estate deals, but they chose not to.

I am sure they agonized over each decision.

But each time – under different publishers and editors – the brain trust on Magnolia Drive in charge of holding local government accountable fell in line behind their advertisers and the political insiders and just looked the other way.

The real estate deals were, well, no big deal!

And now the FBI shows up and the Tallahassee Democrat is trying to act like “Woodward and Bernstein” by burning the midnight oil to reveal facts that have been a part of the public record for years.

It is embarrassing to see the pandering to such an educated citizenry: “Hey look, we found a questionable transaction from 2010!”

Consider these two examples.

In 2012, when Maddox ran for the city commission, the Tallahassee Democrat reporter Jeff Burlew did a story on Maddox real estate transactions. After his report, Tallahassee Democrat Editor at the time, Bob Gabordi, wrote:

Unlike other media reporters, Burlew — a veteran reporter who on Saturday won the Gold Medal for Public Service reporting from the Florida Society of News Editors along with a first place for investigative reporting — did not simply run with a story based on what Penny Herman and Erwin Jackson were saying about Maddox’s land deals.

Guess what? There was no mention in Burlew’s reporting about Paige Carter-Smith, Governance Services, or Adams Street.

The property records were the same then as they are now – what changed? Why no details on transactions in 2009, 2010, 2011 & 2012?

An agonizing decision, I’m sure!

And more recently, in May of 2016, Tallahassee Democrat reporter Tamaryn Waters wrote a biographical article about Carter-Smith when she was appointed to the Downtown Improvement Authority (DIA).

And even though the DIA is a taxing authority that relies on the city commission for approval of funding levels, the article completely ignored the real estate transactions between Paige Carter-Smith and City Commissioner Scott Maddox.

Another agonizing decision!

It is obvious the Tallahassee Democrat is not going to expose unethical or possibly corrupt behavior of those they seek to protect – unless subpoenas are dropped.

It is just too uncomfortable!

So do not expect to read about Nancy Miller’s brother-in-law getting city contracts from the city department Miller’s husband works for.

Do not expect to read about the city employee given a $47,000 job that was not advertised after approving a $5,000 discount at the Edison restaurant for City Manager Rick Fernandez’s immediate family.

Do not expect to read about the city employee who has come forward with emails and text messages supporting her accusation that Commissioner Miller rigged a bid for a friend.

I could go on, but you get the point?

No matter what the FBI investigation finds, it is my view the Tallahassee Democrat has failed this community. And now our city is beginning to bear the brunt of their failures.

If the paper of record had carried out their journalistic responsibilities over the last 10-15 years, maybe the FBI would not have descended upon Tallahassee.

Instead, the Gannett paper has focused on generating revenue for shareholders who do not live in Tallahassee at the expense of holding our local government accountable.

It is unfortunate for Tallahassee, because our community deserves the full benefits of democracy, which requires a free and independent press.

In the words of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Hugo Black, “Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.”

So please, leave Scott Maddox and Paige Carter-Smith alone. You had your chance. Now the FBI will sort out any deception that might have existed.

33 Responses to "Stewart’s Blog: The Tallahassee Democrat Should Leave Scott Maddox & Paige Carter-Smith Alone!"

  1. I can see how you might overlook a midget but, Maddox’s antics, deals & coziness with high-rollers who happen to land big city deals requires some suspicious journalism. So, is it TR’s intent to ignore the elephant in the room? And is this based simply on your distaste for the TD?

  2. Steve Stewart is a gift to this town. Look in any direction and you will find unbridled corruption.

    Don’t forget the dollar-a-year contract between the City and Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. TMH CEO Mark O’bryant gets more than a million a year while housekeeping, laundry, and cafeteria workers are paid poverty wages.

    It is like pigs feeding at the trough, and it is done in our name. We (citizens) own the TMH land, the buildings, and everything inside the buildings.

    1. Hmmm, seems the good Dr. Edward Holifield, M.D. has found, connective t-issue, between government corruption and medical fatalism?

      Statistics (Common sense really.) tend to agree, faithful care of the infirmary ward leads to fewer infections, faster healing, probably fewer maligning rumors and malpractice lawsuits.

      Not all can be CEOs, but who is the CEO that could be trusted with a mop and bucket???

      ‘Maybe’ unrelated to the Scott Maddox regime, but a very very good point. 😉

  3. i think ALL media outlets should keep the heat on, speculation and all. Politically biased reporting is what the TD is all about. Every thinking reader understands the Democrap is supporting Gwen Graham, but watching the Maddox and Gillum races crumble makes it all worth it.

  4. Just as the large media corps, print & broadcast, have prostituted themselves for the almighty dollar, so goes the Tallahassee Democrat. In the end of all this, if there are criminal charges filed against any city employee, commissioner or appointed god, the taxpayers will be on the hook for millions in legal fees.
    After more than 4 decades in Tallahassee proper and Leon County, I am considering packing it in and relocating. Every single city and county commissioner should be replaced, all management at the COT should be replaced but this community just keeps electing the same people expecting a different outcome. I once heard “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”

  5. I don’t know where this FBI investigation may lead, but if one of them has to go to jail, can the citizens of Tallahassee still vote for them and get them elected if they are behind bars? They will want to, you know.

  6. And, let’s be clear, the Downtiwn CRA was allowed AFTER a law suit led to a compromise
    The original County Commissioners at the time voted against it. Those people who pushed for it sued and -for the most part-won. So who got rich from that?
    And, now that EVERYONE got their cash, is there ANY chance the poor folks on whose living-blighted backs the money was justfied, will EVER live in a community that has a grocery store, street lights, and sidewalks? I’m thinking orobably not.?? An absolute push for greed in America’s Greatest City.
    Oh and if you need to know what’s going on in Tallahassee buy the Tampa paper.

  7. As a graphic/editorial journalist who has worked at large metro newspapers (The Orlando Sentinel) and also “smalltown” newspapers in a career spanning over 25 years, I can tell you with no doubt the “Tallahassee Democrat” is an absolute joke dressed up like a newspaper. Why the publication even exists is a mystery to me; I’ve seen junior college newspapers with higher journalistic ethics and better quality reporting/writing. Anyone who takes the “Democrat” seriously as a “newspaper” would be in my mind questionable themselves.
    Preston Scott hits the nail on the head: This FBI intervention is the closest yet that Tallahassee has been to a complete revealing of the local City Hall Corruption Machine, and I hope it turns out to be a million-pound hammer of judicial reckoning for all the downtown dirty hands that have fed off this city for the entire decade-plus I’ve lived here.
    Tallahassee could be a wonderful place to live (!), but it never will be until we’ve rid ourselves of the systemic corruption downtown. I for one hope that the US attorney thinks more of the enormous good he/she can do for this city than they think of their own retirement – maybe they’ll recall why they entered the “justice” profession in the first place, to provide some justice! This city sorely needs it.

  8. I am hoping for an implosion at city hall that will give us the opportunity to clean house. Keep up the good work, Steve!

    1. And Peggy I hope you and other conservatives will support like kind people in the future not the same old Incumbents as so many of our local businesses have done in the past!!!

  9. My grandmother told me… “Don’t give advice you are not willing to do yourself !” Now maybe the Tallahassee Reports can focus on other important local community issues. There are other things to write about than corruption at City Hall. So now that the FBI is in town, please give us some diversity reporting. In other words words…. Surprise us!

    1. You have GOT to be kidding. Stanley, this is the closest the City of Tallahassee has ever been to a much needed complete “enema” and the only reason we are here is because of TR and its relentless reporting using the public record. Sources have turned to TR because the rest of the local media has either sold out, inept, or both. A newspaper’s responsibility is to report the news, whatever it may be. Currently, and for the last several years, the City elected leaders and senior staff have been the news. Little else matters because nearly every single problem in this community can be reliably traced to the City Commission and City appointed senior staff.

  10. The FBI may do their investigation but the US Attorney must bring charges for corruption and here is why, as it was explained to me by a retired US Attorney, the probability of that happening is all most null.

    The US Attorney in Tallahassee wants to be promoted to a larger City where he or she will reach the highest pay grade until they retire. There is a risk in prosecuting politicians for corruption, it could stunt their promotion prospects and their retirement, that is why you only see prosecutions of politicians in cities like New Orleans, Detroit or Philadelphia where the US Attornies in those cities are at their highest pay grade. They are not looking to be promoted and are basically untouchable politically. This is a truncated explanation, but you should get the picture.

    I have lived and worked in New Orleans and Tallahassee. Believe me, I think there is less corruption in New Orleans than Tallahassee, but there are many more prosecutions in New Orleans than Tallahassee simple because the US Attorney has reached his/hers highest pay grade in the DOJ. It is that simple, and I hope what I was told was incorrect, but it makes sense.

    1. The U S Attorney refused to file charges against John Marks because she was law partner with John in Alan Katz’ law firm. Fortunately our acting US Attorney is actively involved in the investigation of Scott and the Tallahassee Den of Thieves!

  11. Are you sure that Burlew and Carter-Smith really understand what’s going on? Their past reporting has been less than impressive even on the easy stories. They can collect facts, but I truly wonder if they can interpret or analyse those facts. They just don’t seem to recognize or consider the nuances of the total picture.

  12. A good start to cleaning out the rat holes:

    1) Have security escort Sue Dick out of the Chamber office. She has fostered the Gary Yordon show for years at a high price to this city’s economy, public safety, and integrity.

    The Sandestin and Amelia Island weekend is nothing more than a marketing scheme for Gary Yordon (Scott Maddox, Sean Pittman) to get a free vacation and promote their political clients at the same time. Dick has duped citizens, taxpayers, and businesses by attempting to promote Yordon & Co. as a credible force when they are nothing more than greedy self promoters (who was caught shoplifting while a county commissioner). You don’t use people like this to represent your city! Elected officials and local law enforcement should not be able to use tax dollars to attend this farce! This farce is only touting that Tallahassee is unworthy of upscale events and by taking a major event to another locale only promotes that Leon County is unable to hold upscale events. Why does the Tallahassee Democrat and elected officials participate in this farce? It needs to stop!

    2) The Tallahassee Democrat should get restraining orders for Gary Yordon, Scott Maddox, and Sean Pittman from allowing them on their property or even electronically contacting them with their 24/7 ad nauseam self promotion nonsense. The less FREE PR by these perps the better.

    3) The Tallahassee Democrat needs to run a full page advertisement for a year apologizing for the years that reporters, editors, and publishers have catered to the usual suspects, covered up corruption, and slanted stories at the expense of our economy, public safety, and integrity.

    4) Elected officials and others involved in corruption need to be held accountable for corruption by the appropriate entities.

    5) The Supervisors of Elections Office needs to enforce the residency rule! If Proctor, Maddox, or Williams were Republicans they would never been able to perpetrate their deceit and frauds. This is one of the greatest crimes perpetrated in Leon County that has contributed to the blight, high crime rate, etc.

    This, only for starters, would go a long way to begin paving a brighter path for Leon County’s future.

  13. I gave up on that worthless rag when the decided to make a hero out of a drug dealer who sold to students and made the police out to be the bad guys!

    1. Amen, James. Me too – after they vilified TPD for WEEKS with everyday slanted headlines, portraying the drug dealer as a “poor college student”, when she in fact had graduated and was working pushing drugs. You really do wonder what they intent was/is.

      1. When the state passed “Rachel’s Law” and held a presser, current “managing editor” of the Democrap Jennifer Portman was there. I witnessed her hugging the drug dealer’s mom.

        I would have fired her for that.

  14. There is one point most everyone in Tallahassee fails to recognize (or at least fails to talk about) when it comes to skewed journalism. Nobody seems to ask *why*?!

    As with most things, one must only follow the money trail to get the answer. In this geographic local it means advertising dollars, not subscription dollars. Let me be clear. There is no news media outlet that isn’t influenced by it one way or the other. Some more than others and in varying degrees. This is why independent journalism, blogging and true investigative reporting is so vital in our modern age of media. Quite honestly, this is what gives the “little guy” the edge when it comes to obtaining obscure pieces of information. The downside is distribution.

    The next time you can’t seem to understand why these hard core, broad reaching topics don’t get reported, ask why… Even more so, ask why of the production staff, editorial boards, news executives and cash principles of the media outlet in question. Historically, in this area it all started with past key political races and those associated financially with their campaigns, along with those who own / owned leading media outlets and who financed them through advertising dollars.

    Via Steve Stewart’s reporting one sees illustrated much of the same continuing today. If you ever decide to ask why, just start following the money and discover who and how it is associated.

    1. Anon…Amen, amen. I for years have said the same thing. The news is not about news. It’s about money. The distribution does not even cover TD’s expenses to run the daily copy. Moreover, it is when ads are sold, the paper (company) makes money. No problem making money, as they are a business and businesses are in the business to make money. Understand.

      Problem is when misleading reports or not reporting “news worthy” interest stories get sidelines because of the money (people) involved that would hurt TD’s bottom line. Just like when the BOLD headlines don’t really explain the “real” story. It’s just to sell the paper which then leads to selling more advertising. It all comes down to the m-o-n-e-y.

  15. The Democrat should close its doors. It has not reported anything worthy of my reading in years. Just like the rest of the liberal tags in this country. As for Scott Maddox and Paige Carter Smith, well, the FBI and federal prosecutors will decide their fate.

    1. The Democrat’s decision to look the other way and not expose corruption in city hall is big news, Second only to the corruption of Scott and other city commissioners.

      1. Dr. Jackson I am also curious why no one has asked questions about a deal made with the FWC and a small inadequate IT company partly owned by JT Burnette. This contract for outdoor licensing and other services is worth well over $20 million when extra fees are added to licenses. The base contract I believe was $13 million. I have brought several other potentially inceiminating activities to the attention of Jeff Burlew and others and these activities don’t even get a mention from WCTV or the Democrat.

  16. That was a brilliant account of not only government corruption, but the unethical reporting by the Tallahassee Democrat. Thank you as always for setting the record straight.

  17. Spot on, Steve.
    They’re even coming out in opposition to the amendment to increase the homestead property exemption, which will provide tax relief to homeowners who have seen their property values increase in recent years.
    Their op-ed should be headlined:
    “Our opinion: We want you to pay more taxes on the same property”
    Call them by a more accurate name:
    “The Anti-Tallahassean”
    You should collect data comparing the variable property tax collections over the last 10-15 years with the the same constant homestead exemption, and do a story and statistical graph showing what I suspect to be a need for an increase in the exemption to keep up with rising values. I’m betting the average amount of taxes paid by a property owner in say, the 2008 recession, on a percentage basis factoring in the exemption, is lower than it is today,

    1. Not spot on in the least!

      So they were late to the table, so what?

      Maddox and Carter-Smith have been having an affair for years and cooking up all kinds of crooked deals. Whoever can bring that forward should do it, the more the merrier!

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