Amidst a debate over ethics reform and no-bid contracts, City Commissioner Jack Porter recommended a $150,000 no-bid grant to the Legal Aid of Tallahassee, a non-profit group run by Carrie Litherland who supported Porter’s 2020 campaign for city commission.
The grant was for the operation of a Municipal Identification Card Program.
Records show Litherland – the executive director of Legal Aid of Tallahassee – donated $250 to Porter’s campaign and was listed as community leader who endorsed Porter’s 2020 candidacy.
Public records also indicate City Commissioner Porter was instrumental in identifying Legal Aid of Tallahassee as a potential sole source vendor.
The motion detailing the vendor and the cost of the program passed 4-1 during the September 22nd Tallahassee City Commission meeting. Mayor John Dailey voted no due to the lack of details provided about the operation of the program.
During the discussion of the motion, the mayor and city commissioners were supportive of the Municipal ID Card program, but raised several questions about the selection of the vendor and a two year commitment of $150,000 for a program that may not generate much benefit.
When Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox proposed a pilot program that the City of Tallahassee could exit based on performance, Commissioner Porter made it clear that Legal Aid needed a two year financial commitment from the City of Tallahassee to hire an individual to implement the program.
It was also revealed during the discussion that Legal Aid had yet to submit a formal proposal to the City of Tallahassee
The motion that passed directed city staff to negotiate a contract with Legal Aid that – upon request from Commissioner Williams-Cox – will include performance milestones.
It is not clear if the negotiated contract will have to be approved by the Tallahassee City Commission or if it can be terminated if there is no demand for ID cards.
Selection of Vendor
The idea of a Municipal Identification Card Program was initiated by Commissioner Porter at the close of the April 7th City Commission meeting. The commission voted unanimously to direct staff to bring back an informational item for discussion.
The item was next included in the April 21 City Commission agenda and the Commission voted 5-0 to direct staff to bring back specific options related to the program. However, the motion made by Commissioner Porter made no mention of specific vendors.
At the September 8th Tallahassee City Commission, during the “sharing of ideas” part of the meeting, Commissioner Porter informed the Commission that she had been working to find a community partner for the program.
Porter told the Commission that Legal Aid of Tallahassee had been in touch with officials at the City of Tallahassee about implementing the program. Porter made a motion that city staff work with the Legal Aid of Tallahassee and bring back an item at the next City Commission meeting. The motion, which did not address the cost of the program, passed 5-0 and resulted in September 22nd agenda item that passed 4-1.
Cost of Program
Tallahassee Reports asked for the documentation supporting the 2-year, $150,000 cost of the program and was told that the cost was based on a verbal estimate provided by Legal Aid Executive Director Carrie Litherland.
The $150,000 price tag is not consistent with the cost of other ID programs implemented in Florida.
For example, in Alachua County, with a population of 269,000, a non-government local provider manages the ongoing operation of the ID program without government funding. City of Tallahassee staff reported in their analysis that Alachua County government made no financial contributions to initiate the ID program. Also, the City of Gainesville provided no funds.
The Alachua County program has been in place since February, 2020 with approximately 1,000 card holders, which is approximately 0.3% of the population.
In 2019, several cities in Palm Beach County adopted resolutions accepting the validity of resident ID cards issued by a community provider.
The City of West Palm Beach provided one-time funding of $40,000 for the program. In 2021, Palm Beach County approved a one-time $75,000 grant after the program was up and running. A total of $115,000 was funded for a population of 1,479,000.
In three years, roughly 3,000 of the 1,479,000 residents of Palm Beach County have requested an ID card. This is approximately 0.2% of the population.
In contrast, the vote by City of Tallahassee allocates $75,000 annually for two years to market ID cards to a population of approximately 190,000. If approximately 1,000 request the cards – as in Alachua County – the cost would be $150 per ID card.