Days after FDLE released a memo stating that the federal investigation of Jackie Pons and the Leon School Board was closed, the Tampa Bay Times (TBT) reports that gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham refused to answer questions related to the “notebook” which put the four-year investigation into motion.
Writing about her resigning her job at the Leon School Board, TBT journalist Lawrence Mower wrote:
[her] departure in 2013 after six years at the district raised eyebrows. By the time she left, she had been promoted to Chief of Labor and Employee Relations and earned praise from Pons.
But her exit came just months before a scandal fomented by Hanna would envelop the school district.
Hanna, with some help from Hildebrandt and others, wrote a notebook filled with allegations against Pons claiming he had steered construction contracts to campaign donors. It was circulated anonymously to the media and FBI in late 2013, casting a shadow over the district for the next few years.
The investigation, which generated approximately 50 stories in the Tallahassee Democrat leading up to the election for the Leon Superintendent of Schools, in the words of Mower, was “politically toxic to Pons, whom Hanna would defeat in the 2016 election.”
Adding to the intrigue is that not only was Pons cleared, the US Attorney involved with the case took the extraordinary move of allowing FDLE to publicly state the FBI investigation was over.
Pons attorney Stephen Dobson, who has more than 20 years of experience in criminal practice, including significant cases in health care fraud, securities fraud, tax fraud, public corruption, and a variety of white collar crimes, told TR that this is “the first time in my career that the US Attorney has stated that a case is closed.”
Referencing the investigation and the “notebook”, TBT’s Mower noted “Graham’s alliance with Hanna was well-known in the district — the two campaigned for each other for their successful 2014 and 2016 races for Congress and superintendent, respectively — and some have wondered if Hanna had told Graham about it.”
But when the reporter approached Graham about the notebook, Mower states that “Graham’s campaign declined to allow her to be interviewed for this story after being told that the Times/Herald intended to ask her about the investigation of the notebook..”
Graham’s lack of transparency raises many questions.
Was Graham aware of the notebook while working at the Leon School Board?
Did she participate in putting the notebook together?
Did she discuss the notebook with Mr. Hanna?
And, finally, does Graham know who else was involved with the “notebook”?