Following the prison sentences handed down by Federal Judge Robert Hinkle against former City Commissioner Scott Maddox, his partner Paige Carter-Smith and Tallahassee businessman JT Burnette, Dr Erwin Jackson continues to push for an ethics reform at Tallahassee Town Hall.
Jackson, known for his 3-minute presentations over the past decade, recently interrupted his appearance before the city commission as the cogs of justice slowed and then stopped during the COVID pandemic.
But now he’s back – still in favor of ethics reform.
Jackson calls on the Tallahassee City Commission to ensure that people who self-incriminated while testifying in the federal corruption investigation are not allowed to appear before the city commission or in court. 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 board as a lobbyist after he admitted under oath that he was part of the Maddox bribery program.”
Jackson also wants a rule or ordinance regulating public relations groups that work on local campaigns and then compete for local contracts.
“There is no way for a campaign consultant to be able to get local contracts and appear in front of the people they helped get elected,” Jackson said.
Some argue that Jackson is taking a winning lap after enduring years of harsh criticism and much skepticism from Tallahassee’s ruling elite. At one point, City Commissioner Scott Maddox publicly questioned Jackson’s sanity during the ongoing saga.
But these recent appearances are more than a simple justification.
Armed with guilty pleas, conviction, and public testimony that shines a light on behind-the-scenes deals, Jackson’s arguments for reform are increasingly being heeded by elected leaders.
Mayor John Daily admitted that his campaign consultants are no longer salespeople for Tallahassee. In addition, the city has provided legal research on their ability to ban vendors from the city based on criminal or unethical behavior.
Jackson knew City was corrupt
Before the first FBI subpoena – linked to this recent federal corruption investigation – 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 tied to former city commissioner Alan Katz. The deal was finally killed.
Jackson has repeatedly shamed the city commission for the 2006 deferred compensation plan which was nothing more than a cash grab for elected officials.
The plan was eventually repealed.
And then there was the former mayor of Tallahassee, John Marks.
Before Scott Maddox became the target of Jackson’s work, John Marks provided the ammunition for the comments that broke the monotony of Town Commission meetings.
And Marks supplied a lot of ammunition.
Jackson hit Marks over his connection to the biomass deal, deferred compensation, city credit card use, the Alliance for Digital Equaity debacle, and the infamous Honeywell deal.
Then there was the kill watch – a blatant attempt to silence the “truth teller”. It failed.
Live videos of Jackson giving talks to Marks and other city commissioners at regular meetings have become a staple on television for local government aficionados.
Then the FBI subpoenas were issued, followed by indictments and prison terms.
While Jackson believes corruption could have been avoided if the Tallahassee Democrat had done his job – the newspaper endorsed Maddox despite a record number of shady deals – or if some politicians had put up some resistance, he knows the rules must be changed.
Jackson is frustrated by the lack of action from elected officials, but he continues to get his message across.
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’m 71, I don’t have ten more years to wait for these changes.