Almost eight years after Tallahassee Reports published a story about Gary Yordon skirting the city’s lobbyist registration ordinance, Yordon verified the facts in the report during his testimony today at the public corruption trial of J.T Burnette.
In 2013, in an attempt to avoid revealing his connection to Scott Maddox and Governance – a Maddox controlled lobbying firm, Yordon failed to register as a lobbyist while representing the McKibbon Hotel Group.
When confronted by city officials, Yordon registered under a business named The Zachary Group. At the time, state business records indicated the business had been inactive since 1999.
Today, under oath, Yordon testified in federal court that he participated in a scheme through the lobbyist registration to hide his connection with Maddox and Governance to avoid a conflict of interest.
Also, Yordon noted the move was intended to avoid criticism from Dr. Erwin Jackson who was regularly speaking before the city commission about unethical behavior.
Yordon said that his $25,000 lobbying fee and $3,000 a month retainer fee paid by McKibbon went from The Zachary Group to Governance “immediately.”
TR’s original story is included below.
Mckibbon Hotel Group Consultant Communicated with Staff Without Registering as a City Lobbyist
September 5, 2013
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.