By: Mariel Carbone | WCTV Eyewitness News
July 11, 2017
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – A critical deadline in an FBI investigation into downtown development deals in the Capital City has come and gone.
Two federal subpoenas demanded that the City of Tallahassee and the Community Redevelopment Agency turn over all documents related to communication with a list of power players in town. Those documents were to be handed over by 9 a.m. Tuesday to a grand jury.
However, the City has yet to turn over those documents. As of early evening, the City Attorney’s office was still coordinating with the FBI to determine how best to deliver the thousands of electronic documents.
"It's a very bold subpoena, a lot of information is requested,” said David Moye, who formerly worked with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and now handles personal injury.
Moye said it’s not uncommon for agents to coordinate the delivery of documents and that the “due date” was probably just the beginning of that grand jury session. That doesn’t necessarily mean the grand jury will look at the case at that time, as it deals with several cases at once.
The grand jury meets once a month for about a week, Tuesday to Friday. Moye said their sole purpose is to determine if any laws were broken.
"They will not give advice. And they will not come up with recommendations for improving the system. They'll look into it to see if there is probable cause and if they believe a federal crime was committed,” he said.
If it’s determined that a crime was committed, an indictment will be made. If not, the grand jury will return a “no true bill.”
As the due date passed at the courthouse, blocks away the Leon County Commission was also discussing the future of the Downtown CRA.
"The FBI doesn't show up for a prayer meeting, or a praise session,” said County Commissioner Bill Proctor.
Proctor was calling for an immediate withdraw from the Downtown CRA because of the investigation. He wanted that to be reflected in the 2017-2018 fiscal year budget, which the commission was making a tentative vote on.
"Unfortunately, our names and reputations are affected when the agency we serve on is under FBI review. Not only is the FBI investigation a wakeup call, but it is a call that compels a heightened focus, on our part, over operational details for which we hold oversight,” he said.
The County was already considering dissolving the Downtown CRA. The discussion began back at its annual retreat in January, with the commission looking at it as a way to offset a loss of funds from a potential Homestead Tax Exemption. Commissioners have also said that the downtown is no longer a blighted area. The idea was to dissolve it by fiscal year 2020, with the process being reflected in the upcoming budget.
"My support of sun setting the Downtown CRA is simply that the work in the Downtown CRA is done,” said Commissioner Nick Maddox, who is the chair of the CRA board.
Commissioner Mary Ann Lindley and Kristin Dozier made similar remarks, stating that the decision to dissolve the Downtown CRA has nothing to do with the FBI probe.
Ultimately, the Commission voted 6-1 to support the budget as is, with the dissolution of the CRA set for 2020. Commissioner Proctor was the only one voting against the budget because it did not reflect a dissolution of the CRA for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
County Administrator Vince Long sent out a letter immediately following the meeting to City Manager Rick Fernandez notifying the city of the county’s intention.
"We would begin to work on that process beginning tomorrow,” said Long.
But, the decision is not a unilateral one. The County, City and CRA Board must all come to an agreement. If all agree, the process could move quickly.
“It’s not a process that would conceivably take very long,” said Long. “If the City Commission’s action were the same as the County’s then it would be very quick.”
Despite movement on the front of dissolving the Downtown CRA, the discussion of the CRA isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
"This has been going on for a while, and this will continue to be a thorough investigation,” said Moye.
The CRA will hold its first meeting since news broke of the investigation on Thursday at 9:30 a.m.