As former Mayor/City Commissioner/Florida Democrat Party Chairman Scott Maddox faces a 44-count indictment for political corruption, Tallahasseans wonder how does such a public figure allegedly commit bank fraud, extortion, bribery, and tax fraud without anyone knowing, and more importantly, taking action before it cast a dark cloud of corruption over the entire city?
Was the main-stream media complicit? Was there a cover-up?
Penny Herman, a former mayor and member of the City Commission, said she first sounded the alarm about Maddox in 1996, when she was still on the commission. She was concerned about a building he was pushing the City to buy on Adams Street.
Herman recalled, “I was concerned enough that I went to commercial realtors to ask if they thought the deal, the numbers and what the commission was doing made any sense. They said, ‘absolutely not.’”
She said while she never filed a formal complaint, she publicly voiced her concerns with the Commission.
In 2012, after Maddox announced his desire to return to the City Commission, Herman went on the Preston Scott Show in early June 2012, to discuss Maddox’s latest land deals. She also expressed concerns over Maddox’s lack of disclosure of his associations and business interests.
Scott dedicated almost an hour to his interview with Herman.
She said she was disappointed her allegations weren’t seen as legitimate warnings. Instead, she said she was put into a political box and marginalized along with Erwin Jackson, a local business man who repeatedly called out local politicians’ questionable dealings.
“People didn’t take it on face-value, that through my experience as a Realtor and having served on the City Commission with Maddox that I thought there was something wrong here.”
“It was hard not to see some glaring red flags,” she continued, “I think there were a lot of people in this community that knew things were not on the up and up and looked the other way.”
Preston Scott puts blame squarely with the local establishment media. “The Tallahassee Democrat has a long-standing pattern of being friends (with the politicians they’re covering.) They want the interview so badly they don’t ask the tough questions. They sit on the boards with the politicians and lobbyists. They’re simply too close.”
He said the same is true with WCTV and WTXL. Former mayor John Marks’ wife is an on-air personality on WTXL. Gary Yordon, a long-time friend and business partner of Maddox, hosts a weekly show on WCTV. Scott points to an email showing Maddox’s assistant asked Yordon to intervene following WCTV reporter Andy Alcock’s story on Herman’s allegations.
Alcock said Maddox called WCTV’s general manager several times to complain, because he didn’t like the coverage he was getting.
“When I questioned Maddox’s residency (before the 2012 election) and how he made so much money in real estate, the first thing Maddox did was call my boss, Triston Sanders. We had a conference call. He tried everything in his power to kill my stories.”
Alcock said, while he was working on a story on Maddox’s relationship with Allied Veterans (a supposed charity found to be a gambling operation), Maddox took WCTV news director Stan Sanders (no relation to Triston) out to dinner to “schmooze him.” Sanders killed the story.
“It finally got to the point where Maddox wouldn’t do an interview with me,” Alcock said.
He said despite Maddox’s intimidation tactics, Alcock never felt pressure from WCTV management and denied rumors that his contract was not renewed due to his aggressive coverage of local politicians.
Alcock said Maddox’s carrot and stick strategy was applied to other media outlets as well. The Tallahassee Democrat’s editor in 2012, Bob Gabordi, and Maddox were good friends, walking together weekly. “Gabordi undermined his own news people in his editorials,” offering excuses for Maddox’s behavior, comparing Maddox’s real estate dealings to what “many smart business people were doing…”
Preston Scott also talked about how Maddox tried to influence news.
Scott said Maddox habitually tried to kill negative stories about him. Maddox reportedly told Scott’s general manager he’d pull all advertising as long as Scott was on the air.
Andy Alcock said Tallahassee’s relationship between the media and local government was “incestuous.”
“It’s a small city. (The media’s) advertisers are the same people they’re covering. As a result, local politicians weren’t used to aggressive investigative reporting and didn’t expect vigorous questioning.”
Alcock said you can’t blame the local media for Maddox’s indictments. “There were stories. Nobody’s to blame.”
Scott disagreed, “You had key people connected to local government involved in one way or another with media outlets. They can deny it all day long, but where are the stories? Every single one of those business dealings and decisions made by the commission (and investigated by the FBI) were all questioned on my show. No one can claim we didn’t say anything.”
“Steve (Stewart) and Tallahassee Reports were pushing out stories based on the public record. There are questions that should have been asked (by other media). I maintain, if the (mainstream) local media had done its job, there probably never would’ve been a need for an FBI investigation, because they would’ve been held accountable by the media. But when you are too close, too friendly with the people you interview that’s what happens,” Scott said.
TR’s Karen Murphy reached out to former Tallahassee Democrat Editor Bob Gabordi for comments, but never received a response.