Scott Maddox Used “Carrot and Stick” to Influence Media Coverage

Scott Maddox Used “Carrot and Stick” to Influence Media Coverage

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.

13 Responses to "Scott Maddox Used “Carrot and Stick” to Influence Media Coverage"

  1. Businesses were paying Maddox like it was a routine “cost of doing business”. Who were they having to pay in Tallahassee before Maddox and are they routinely doing it now with other local/state governments?

  2. It seems to me one of the things about all this that appears to get little attention is that the companies were paying Maddox like it is a “routine cost of doing business”. If this is true, who before Maddox were companies having to pay within Tallahassee and are they now paying others associated with other cities/states/fed government?

  3. How much higher was your utility bill in order to cover the corruption that many turned a blind eye to? Local media needs more investigative journalists who don’t wink at obvious corruption.

  4. Great reporting on the sad state of COT government and most local media (TR the lone brave exception) in the past decade or more – and it’s probably still going on.
    People in a position to call out Maddox deliberately looked the other way or whitewashed his illegal tactics and have greatly ruined the reputation of a city they all professed “to love”.
    All of you at COT and local media: Don’t hand me your fake platitudes and campaign talking points about how you “love Tallahassee” when you let Maddox and others at COT turn this city into such a national joke that even our President termed Tallahassee “one of the worst & most corrupt cities in USA”. It’s not his fault, it’s yours. You at COT and local media enabled this corrupt mess of a city and you own it. You want blame – look in the mirror.
    You at COT and local media have the chance going forward to change your actions or continue more of the same – but don’t ever tell us you “love this city” again. If you did, you would have done something long ago to stop this corruption and Tallahassee would never have deteriorated to this point.

  5. Simply put in a Public Record Request for: 1) all of the ‘paid’ advertising that COT paid (and pays) the Democrat, radio, tv, etc. per month. Then put in: 2) another PRR for all of the Public Service Announcements (PSA) – these are unpaid to aire – but cost to produce. And now: 3) look at who produces these commercials, announcements and websites and see how much they got paid (as in Governance, Yordon, TAPP Program). And then: 4) finally look at how, when, where all the COT money was funneled through and out of COT (Communications, Marketing, TAPP, Utilities, etc.); they keep track of all this down to the number of Facebook views per day, etc.

    Get it FBI? It’s called follow the dirty money. Maddox had (and still has) a lot of assistance within COT. This debacle did not happen within the Maddox, Gillum, Fernandez, Daniels 4th Floor of City Hall vacuum, did it?

    So how much in advertising dollars and PSAs did Tallahassee Reports obtain from COT in the last Ten Year’s, Mr. Stewart? Any?

  6. The running theme is the media creates the the hype. Jeff Burlew and the staff at the TD published over 50 stories on the FBI Leon Schools issue. They have yet to print the true headline Rocky Hanna Confesses to School Board Attorney Hank Coxe He (Hanna) had NO KNOWLEDGE OF ANY WRONGDOING, Hanna admits he collected all the documents, wrote the Deliberately Misleading Summaries of Each Section in the Notebook. Hanna Admits He Circulated The Notebook. Hanna “Hit List”; 5 employees lives ruined because of Rocky Hanna. The media, school board and Hanna’s Assistant Superintendent’s look the other way.

    1. The Governor should immediately suspend the entire Leon County School Board for refusing to openly discuss, take action and hold Rocky Hanna accountable for his admitted violations of the educators code of conduct. Further, Rocky Hanna should be suspended pending a full investigation of these matters and until such time all Hanna appointed Assistant Superintendents who were appointed without interviews should be placed in high needs schools teaching students. By the way, the school board just lamented over paying an outside company to manage a failing school but it is silent on the lack of leadership and lack of accountability from Superintendent Hanna, Gregory, Cox and Kraul that caused the failure.

  7. The list of enablers is long:

    Sue Dick
    Mike Pate
    Mary Ann Lindley
    Gerald Ensley
    WCTV management
    Gary Yordon
    Bill Cotterell
    The Tallahassee Chamber Board
    Bob Gabordi
    Sheriff Larry Campbell
    Supervisor of Elections
    Bill Berlow
    Curtis Richardson
    Andrew Gillum
    Gil Ziffer
    John Marks
    Nancy Miller
    Jeffrey Schweers
    Jeff Burlew
    Willie Meggs
    Many more but these were the worst …

    They could have done something but they did nothing except to promote cover up endorse and look the other way.

    1. Excellent list of “usual suspects,” Hope. Although I would not put Cotterell on it.
      But the rest of the enablers are guilty as h-e-double toothpicks, IMHO.

      Holding them accountable would be one small step.
      Meanwhile, journalism will improve by one giant leap come March 1:

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