The recent revelation by the Tallahassee Democrat that in 2014 the City of Tallahassee began an investigation into allegations of bribery involving City Commissioner Scott Maddox was not the first sign of a pattern of behavior that would eventually lead to a federal indictment of Maddox and his associate, Paige Carter-Smith.
Shortly after Maddox took office in 2012, Tallahassee Reports published a story about votes for a development that highlighted some of the same elements of an “Enterprise” outlined in the indictment.
The federal indictment stated that the “defendants made false statements, misrepresentations, and concealed material information regarding Maddox’s affiliation with, control, and management of Governance and Gov.Services.”
These elements were present in 2013 during the city process to approve a proposed development supported by the Mckibbon Hotel Group (MHG). Gary Yordon, who was then employed by Governance, was representing MHG before the city commission and failed to register as a lobbyist as required by city ordinance.
After a questions by TR, the city required Yordon to register.
However, Yordon did not register under the Governance business name, even though at the time, he was registered as a Governance lobbyist with the Leon County C0mmission. His city registration under another business name “concealed material information” from the public and city officials relating to the development.
The indictment also alleges that Maddox “used his position as City Commissioner to take official action favorable to Governance and Gov. Services clients, including pressuring and advising City officials and voting on measures before the City Commission.”
When the MHG issue came before the city commission, Maddox failed to inform his fellow commissioners about the potential conflict as required by law. Rather, on three occasions when this issue was addressed by the City Commission, Maddox simply got up and walked out when a vote was taken. This action hid from other city commissioners his conflicts with the development.
Months later, in early 2014, Maddox finally admitted to a conflict and the project was voted down.
Shortly after these events, Yordon would separate himself from the “Enterprise” and the recently exposed city investigation into bribery allegations would commence and end with no action or public notice.
The recent indictment alleges that the criminal elements of the “Enterprise” were well underway during 2013 and 2014 and continued in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
The city’s failure to make the bribery investigation public in 2014 and the lack of follow-up in the local media to TR’s reporting on the MHG affair, provided little resistance to the on-going operation of the “Enterprise” that was only revealed after a federal investigation.
ORIGINAL STORY September, 2013
Mckibbon Hotel Group Consultant Communicated with Staff Without Registering as a City Lobbyist
Tallahassee Reports has learned that the consultant retained by the Mckibbon Hotel Group (MHG) – who has business before the City Commission – had communications with City staff on MHG issues and was not a registered lobbyist with the City of Tallahassee.
Tallahassee Reports requested a list of registered lobbyists on August 16, 2013. Click here to see a list of registered lobbyists as of August 19, 2013. The list shows no one registered to represent MHG.
Tallahassee Reports was told by two City of Tallahassee employees that Gary Yordon had contacted them on behalf of the MHG and discussed issues related to MHG’s project before August 19, 2013. Tallahassee Reports has previously written about the MHG project here.
The City Commission voted on issues related to MHG on April 24, 2013, the Planning Commission voted on an MHG issue on September 3rd, 2013 and the City Commission has another vote scheduled on a MHG issue on October 24, 2013.
In early 20011, the City of Tallahassee enacted an ordinance that requires the registration of lobbyist. The ordinance defines lobbying as:
communications, whether written or oral, by a lobbyist outside a duly noticed public meeting or hearing on the record with any member or members of the city commission, or any member or members of any decision-making body under the jurisdiction of the city commission, or any city employee, whereby the lobbyist seeks to encourage or influence the passage, defeat, modification or repeal of any item which may be presented for vote before the city commission, or any decision-making body under the jurisdiction of the city commission, or which may be presented for consideration by a city employee as a recommendation to the city commission or decision-making body.
In addition, the lobbyist registration form requires the lobbyist to identify who they are representing and to identify any direct business relationships they have with city commissioners and city staff.
Four days after Tallahassee Reports requested a list of registered lobbyists, Mr. Yordon registered with the City Tallahassee as a lobbyists for MHG under the lobbying firm name The Zachary Group. See Mr. Yordon’s lobbyist registration form here.
Tallahassee has learned that “The Zachary Group” is not currently registered with the State of Florida as a business entity, and in fact, was dissolved in 1999. In addition, Leon County records show that Mr. Yordon is currently registered as a lobbyist for Governance, representing several businesses, including Waste Pro – a city and county vendor.
Why didn’t Mr. Yordon register with the City as a lobbyists under Governance as he did with the Leon County Board of County Commissioners this year and has in the past several years?
Tallahassee Reports has learned that due to the relationship that Governance reportedly has with City Commissioner Scott Maddox, Mr. Yordon could not register as lobbyist under the Governance name.
It has been reported elsewhere that Mr. Maddox sold his residence to Governance and is currently leasing the home from Governance. In addition, Mr. Maddox reported Governance as a source of income on his 2012 Financial Disclosure form.
Florida Statutes states that “No public officer or employee of an agency shall have or hold any employment or contractual relationship with any business entity or any agency which is subject to the regulation of, or is doing business with, an agency of which he or she is an officer or employee..”
The question that Tallahassee Reports is now seeking an answer to is can a lobbyist in a lobbying firm that has a conflict with an elected official simply register under another firm name, while still a part of the conflicted firm, and not have to reveal the conflict?
If the answer to this question is yes, the City of Tallahassee’s ordinance for registering lobbyists may not do what it was suppose to do: notify the public of potential conflicts.