During 2017 the most read stories published by Tallahassee Reports were dominated by ethical and corruption issues at City Hall.
The TAPP Program
The most read story dealt with an exclusive report about the TAPP program and City Commissioner Nancy Miller.
In June, 2017, 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.
Football Tickets, Catering Discount and a City Job
The controversy – which has yet to be resolved – surrounding City Manager Rick Fernandez taking football tickets from a city lobbyist, a $4,700 catering discount from a city vendor, and authorizing a job for an Edison employee were three stories that garnered top attention in 2017.
Tallahassee Reports reported in June that a former employee of the Edison restaurant had landed a $47,000 a year job with the City of Tallahassee’s Communications Department.
Also, documents showed that the employee, Edward Kring, was the “sales rep” for the Edison catered event that resulted in a $4,700 “owners discount” for the family of Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez. TR published an investigative story about the discount.
In addition, Tallahassee Reports confirmed in August, through a number of sources, that City Manager Rick Fernandez received football tickets located in the “Old School” sky box from city lobbyist and Edison owner, Adam Corey. Corey owns the sky box.
TR reviewed the gift records maintained by the Florida Commission on Ethics and no gift disclosure for football tickets was filed by city manager Rick Fernandez over the last two years.
Florida statutes prohibit a government employee, like Fernandez, from accepting a gift from a lobbyist if he or she knows or reasonably believes that the gift has a value in excess of $100.
Corey was a registered lobbyist during 2016.
The “Old School” sky box is actually two sky boxes that has been renovated to be one box seating up to 40 people. The annual cost of the double-box would be approximately $80,000. Individual tickets would be valued at approximately $350-$400.
Mayor Gillum’s Problems
Through a public records request in February, Tallahassee Reports reported that Mayor Andrew Gillum’s Office sent out an email blast invite to a Biden/Clinton campaign event using the NGP VAN software purchased with City of Tallahassee tax dollars.
This finding contradicted statements by Gillum’s Chief of Staff, Dustin Daniels, who told Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat that the NGP VAN software was not used for campaign purposes.
“We use it for our communications with constituents for large events like the Longest Table or our community summit on children, which requires thousands of messages and interactions with specific lists of community members,” said Daniels.
This finding raised the level of the controversy that began after TR published a story about the $5,000 expenditure associated with the NGP VAN software.
Following media reports about Gillum’s issues, Jon Ausman, who chaired the Leon Democrat Executive Committee for 20 years and was the longest-serving member of the Democratic National Committee in Florida history, posted a comment on Facebook calling for the resignation of Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez and Mayor Andrew Gillum.
Ausman said, “For 22+ years I worked at the FDOT. I never forgot that the public owned: the desk I used; the desk’s contents; the computer assigned to me; and, the computer’s contents. Mr. Fernandez appears to have disgraced himself by forgetting this fact. He should now resign.”
Gordos Moving, Steve Adams Leaves Edison
Two of the most read stories included non-political reports about the popular cuban restaurant Gordos, and Steve Adams, the manager of the Edison restaurant.
In July Tallahassee Reports published a story about Gordos Cuban Cuisine plans to move from their location in the Market Square Shopping Center.
However, the good news for their loyal clientele was that the restaurant will remain in the Market District. The new location will be on Maclay Blvd. in the “Cornerstone at Market Street” retail center.
The owner of Gordos, Eddie Agramonte, told TR that “the uncertainty with the new landlord for the last two years has resulted in the move.” Mr. Agramonte also owns a Gordos on Pensacola Street.
In May Tallahassee Reports broke the story that popular restaurateur Steve Adams suddenly left his position with the Edison restaurant in Cascades Park.
This came less than a month after the Tallahassee Democrat reported that The Edison had hired Steve Adams to run operations. He was described as a “heavy hitter” and Mr. Adams said the restaurant “is getting back to basics. A simpler menu. Better customer service.”
Approximately six months after moving to Tallahassee from South Carolina to take the job, Tallahassee Reports confirmed Adams is no longer with The Edison.
Sources said the separation was due to “business and financial reasons.”