In the wake of the prison sentences handed down by federal judge Robert Hinkle to former City Commissioner Scott Maddox, his business associate Paige Carter-Smith, and Tallahassee businessman J.T. Burnette, Dr. Erwin Jackson continues to push for ethics reform at Tallahassee City Hall.
Jackson, known for his 3-minute presentations over the last ten years, recently took a hiatus from appearing before the city commission as the wheels of justice slowed and then ground to a halt during the COVID pandemic.
But now he is back – still pushing for ethics reform.
Jackson is asking the Tallahassee City Commission to make sure that those people that incriminated themselves while testifying in the federal corruption probe not be allowed to appear before the city commission or compete for city contracts.
Jackson uses former Maddox associate Gary Yordon as an example.
Jackson said, “we cannot allow Gary Yordon to continue to appear before the city commission as a lobbyist after he admitted under oath that he was part of the Maddox corruption scheme.”
Jackson also wants a rule or ordinance regulating public relations groups that work on local campaigns and then vie for local contracts.
“There is no way a campaign consultant should be able to secure local contracts and appear before the people they helped get elected,” said Jackson.
Some argue Jackson is taking a victory lap after enduring years of harsh criticism and much skepticism from the Tallahassee power elite. At one point, City Commissioner Scott Maddox publicly questioned Jackson’s mental health during the ongoing saga.
But there is more to these recent appearances than just vindication.
Armed with guilty pleas, a conviction, and public testimony which shed light on the back room deals, Jackson’s arguments for reform are receiving more consideration by elected leaders.
Mayor John Daily has made it a point to acknowledge that his campaign consultants are no longer vendors for the Tallahassee. In addition, the city has provided legal research on their ability to bar city vendors based on criminal or unethical behavior.
Jackson Knew City was Corrupt
Before the first FBI subpoena – related to this recent federal corruption probe – hit city hall, Jackson knew many city officials were corrupt.
Jackson said, “the level of corrupt and unethical behavior was mind boggling.”
In 2008 Jackson exposed the corrupt FSU biomass deal linked to former city commissioner Alan Katz. The deal was eventually killed.
Jackson repeatedly shamed the city commission over the 2006 deferred compensation plan that was nothing but a money grab for elected officials.
The plan was eventually repealed.
And then there was former Tallahassee Mayor John Marks.
Before Scott Maddox became the target of Jackson’s work, John Marks provided the ammunition for comments that cut through the monotony of the city commission meetings.
And Marks provided a lot of ammunition.
Jackson hit Marks on his connection to the biomass deal, the deferred compensation, the use of a city credit card, the Alliance for Digital Equaity debacle, and the infamous Honeywell arrangement.
Then there was the kill watch – a blatant attempt to quiet the “truth teller.” It failed.
The live videos of Jackson lecturing Marks and other city commissioners during regular meetings became must watch TV for local government aficionados.
Then the FBI subpoenas hit, followed by indictments and prison sentences.
While Jackson believes the corruption could of been avoided if the Tallahassee Democrat had done their job – the paper endorsed Maddox despite a record of shady deals – or if some politicians would have provided some resistance, he knows the rules need to be changed.
Jackson is frustrated by the lack of action by elected officials, but he continues to push his message.
City officials have scheduled a workshop in the first quarter of next year to address some of Jackson’s issues.
Jackson, recently told the city commission, ” I am 71, I don’t have ten more years to wait for these changes.”