An exhibit in the recently concluded federal public corruption trial indicates J.T. Burnette executed a contract on November 12, 2013 with VancoreJones Communications, Inc. to “influence local government agencies” related to real estate projects on behalf of TM Street, LLC.
However, government records show no one from VancoreJones Communications has ever registered to lobby for TM Street, LLC with the Leon County Commission or the City of Tallahassee.
Based on the City of Tallahassee ordinances, lobbying means “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…”
Drew Jones told the Tallahassee Democrat in early 2020 that VancoreJones is mainly a communications company.
“By your questions it appears you think we’re a lobby firm, which we are not,” Jones told the Tallahassee Democrat. “We are a strategic communications/public affairs firm not unlike BowStern, Sachs Media, Moore or Bascom Communications.”
“If we were to register to lobby, as some have suggested, we would be lying,” Steven Vancore said. “If we were hired to lobby that would be a different circumstance and we, of course, would gladly register. But as that is not the purpose, we are not willing to engage in a false statement under any circumstance.”
However, the language in the proposal for TM Street is not consistent with Mr. Vancore’s comments.
The proposal states that VancoreJones was hired to “navigate the City and County governments and commissioners” and “inform and influence local government agencies….” for TM Street, LLC.
The language in the proposal seems to be consistent with what the City of Tallahassee considers lobbying.
From the VancoreJones proposal related to TM Street LLC:
The contract was executed on November 12, 2013, which was before the City Commission decided the fate of a TM Street LLC challenge to the proposed Mckibbon Hotel Group project.
Due the federal investigation into corruption, the City of Tallahassee is auditing contracts related to former City Commissioner Scott Maddox.
The Burnette trial – which resulted in a conviction – generated pages of documents that provide more information about the actions of individuals related to the investigation.
Before the conclusion of the Burnette trial, Mayor John Dailey said the Tallahassee City Commission would address the implications of the trial after the proceedings were completed.
The Tallahassee City Commission is scheduled to meet – for the first time since the summer break – on September 8, 2021.
The proposal – included below – was prepared by Steven Vancore and Andrew Jones for Kim Rivers and executed by J.T. Burnette.