Ethics Commission Talks Punishment for Mayor Marks

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Tallahassee, FL - November 15, 2012

An attorney for the Ethics Commission has recommended the mayor be fined 30,000 dollars together with a public censure and reprimand. At issue are the mayor’s past votes in City commission meetings which the complaint claims were in conflict with his business relationships with Honeywell Corporation and a non-profit group called the Alliance for Digital Equality or ADE.

The mayor’s attorney Barry Richard has recommended the case be dropped altogether due to insufficient evidence. An administrative law judge will ultimately make a decision on what course to recommend. That recommendation will be sent to the ethics commission, possibly before the end of the month.

Tallahassee, Florida - July 6, 2012 - 2:20pm -

No one is going to force me out of office. Tallahassee Mayor John Marks made that comment at a meeting on the evening of June 27th.

Video of the Tallahassee City Commission meeting

Mayor Marks' comments came at the first city commission meeting following the Florida Ethics Commission's ruling the mayor may have violated the state's ethics code.

"This is what stalking is all about. This man is nothing but a stalker and he has harassed me and my family," Mayor Marks said.

Mayor John Marks tells long-time critic Erwin Jackson what he thinks of him. It followed Jackson's own comments. Jackson wore a white cowboy hat claiming he's the good guy.

"Fortunately even a $725 an hour attorney could not confuse the ethics commission. Their vote confirms John Marks is the most corrupt mayor in the history of Tallahassee," Jackson said.

Jackson filed the complaint resulting in the finding Mayor Marks may have violated state ethics law by votes for city contracts for organizations where the mayor had ties.

"I have never, never taken a vote...cast a vote at this commission with the purpose in mind of my doing anything inappropriate," Marks said.

While the mayor has been publicly reserved on the ethics complaint until this meeting, so have city commissioners. But now, they're also talking.

"I urge you, whatever you do, do it quickly because I think at least for me, my patience is wearing thin on how this is impacting our government," City Commissioner Gil Ziffer said.

"I guess I'm a little bit disappointed by your comments, commissioner, I really am because apparently, what you would like to do is to deny me the ability to express my side of the story," Mayor Marks replied.

"A little less public exposure because every time you go out in public, the public is just agitated and it's only making it worse," City Commissioner Nancy Miller said.

"What's happened has not made you look good. And it's affected us to some degree. I think we're reacting to that," City Commissioner Mark Mustain said.

"I think we are all encouraging as best as possible, quick resolution," City Commissioner Andrew Gillum said.

"You know, I've been elected to serve the people of Tallahassee three times. And I plan to continue that election until I make the determination as to whether or not I'm going to leave. Nobody else is going to make that determination," Mayor Marks replied.

Commissioners also expressed concerns about the mayor's out of town travel on behalf of the city.

We asked the mayor if defending himself against the ethics charges means making his case before an administrative law judge.

It's one of his options.

He says we're on the right track.

Tallahassee, Florida - June 27,2012

Following a more than hour and a half closed door meeting nearly two weeks ago, the ethics commission found enough evidence or probable cause to believe Mayor Marks may have violated state ethics law.

At issue is the mayor's association with two groups.The first one is the non-profit Alliance for Digital Equality or ADE.The commission found a potential violation because the mayor was a paid board member of ADE while supporting an application for a federal grant for a city contract.

The commission also found the mayor may have behaved unethically by supporting a series of city contracts for Honeywell Corporation.

The mayor was working for a now defunct Miami lawfirm at the time which had Honeywell as a client. The mayor's attorney plans to meet with the mayor some time this week to determine what Marks will do next.

Marks can request a full hearing on the issue, negotiate a settlement or challenge the commission's findings in court.

Tallahassee, Florida - July 5, 2012

Jacob Eaton is no stranger to controversy.

In February, we showed you a scuffle he had with Leon County Democratic Party Treasurer Bob Henderson.
It came after Eaton was speaking about a questionable late contribution to Mayor John Marks' 2010 re-election campaign.

Eaton was charged with a felony for the scuffle, but the case was later dropped.
Now Eaton is a candidate for the city commission.
"The mayor should absolutely resign", said Eaton.
Eaton points to the Florida Ethics Commission's finding the mayor may have violated the law.
He claims city deals Mayor Marks has led have enriched the mayor and cost Tallahassee taxpayers about $60 million dollars.
"That disgusts me, that disgusts the public, that erodes the public trust and it's wrong for the citizens of Tallahassee", said Eaton.
But at the last city commission meeting on June 27th, the mayor said he hasn't had a chance to defend himself yet.

"Where the Ethics Commission is right now, it's not the last step", said Mayor Marks.
"He's had a chance to defend himself all the time he's had in office", said Eaton.

Eaton is hoping to unseat Commissioner Andrew Gillum who Eaton calls the mayor's strongest defender.
"If you get rid of one, you have to get rid of the other, because both of them are one in the same", Eaton said.

In a written response, Gillum said "I have a strong working relationship with all of my colleagues" and this campaign "is not about Mayor Marks or my opponents, it's about doing the right thing for the people of Tallahassee."

Tallahassee, Florida - July 5, 2012

There's a new call today for Tallahassee's mayor to step down. A candidate for the city commission says Mayor John Marks should resign effective immediately.

Jacob Eaton is running for the second district city commission seat. He made the announcement about Mayor Marks needing to step down outside of Tallahassee City Hall today.

You may recall Eaton was at the center of a controversy earlier this year. When he started to speak up at a meeting of the Leon County Democratic Party Executive Committee about questionable funds funneled to Mayor Marks campaign in 2010, party treasurer Bob Henderson confronted Eaton. A scuffle then took place.

Eaton was charged with the battery of a person 65 years of age or older, a felony. However, the charge against him was later dropped.

Eaton now points to the Florida Ethics Commission finding last month stating Mayor Marks may have violated state ethics law.

"What makes me mad about the whole situation as far as what the mayor did is that he cost the citizens of Tallahassee in the neighborhood of $60-million dollars because he wanted to enrich himself and ingratiate himself," Jacob Eaton, City Commission Candidate for Seat 2, says.

The mayor said at the last city commission meeting he still has the opportunity to defend himself against the ethics charges. He says any rush to judgment is premature.

Eaton is running for the seat currently held by Commissioner Andrew Gillum. Eaton says Gillum has been on the mayor's strongest supporters and needs to be replaced.

Tallahassee, Florida - June 20, 2012 - Noon -

Results of an ethics complaint against Tallahassee's mayor have been publicly released. Last week, the Florida's Ethics Commission found enough evidence to believe Mayor John Marks violated the state's code. The results come following Friday's closed door hearing.

According to the release, the commission found probable cause to believe Mayor Marks had a voting conflict when he voted to approve the city's participation in a federal grant partnership with the Alliance for Digital Equality, or ADE, because the mayor served that organization as a paid board member. However, the Commission found no probable cause the mayor had a contractual relationship with ADE while the non-profit group was doing business with the city because ADE never had a contract with the city.

In a separate complaint, the commission found probable cause to believe Mayor Marks voted on matters in March, June and September of 2007 and June 2008 to help the Honeywell Corporation while the mayor worked for a law firm representing Honeywell.

However, the commission found no probable cause on five accusations Mayor Marks had conflicts of interest as a result of the city's contracts with Honeywell.

While Mayor Marks didn't speak to us after he left Friday's hearing, later that afternoon, he did release a statement. It says in part the commission's decision was not a finding of wrongdoing. It also says when all the facts are considered, he's confident any decision with reflect the truth. Marks believes that the truth is he acted in the sacred trust of public service.

Tallahassee, Florida - June 20, 2012-

The Commission’s press release from its June 15th meeting is attached.

The Commission found that there was probable cause to believe that Tallahassee Mayor John Marks had a voting conflict when he voted to approve the City’s participation in a federal grant in partnership with the Alliance for Digital Equality (ADE), a company he served as a compensated board member. However, no probable cause was found to believe that Mayor Marks had a contractual relationship with ADE while ADE was doing business with the City, because the City never entered into a contract with ADE.

In a separate complaint, the Commission found probable cause to believe that Mayor Marks voted on matters in March 2007, September 2007, June 2007, and June 2008, that inured to the gain of Honeywell—a client of his law firm. However, the Commission found no probable cause on five allegations that he had conflicts of interest as a result of the City's contracts with Honeywell.

Tallahassee, Florida - June 19, 2012

Results of an ethics complaint against Tallahassee's mayor are expected to be publicly released Wednesday. That word came from the state's ethics commission. The commission did find enough evidence to suggest Mayor John Marks may have violated the state's ethics code.

Mayor John Marks and his attorney left the state capitol on Friday without comment, other than to confirm Florida's ethics commission found the mayor may have broken state law. Local businessman Erwin Jackson complained the mayor profited from the Alliance for Digital Equality and the Honeywell Corporation while supporting city contracts for those organizations. The ethics commission has agreed there may be some truth to those claims.

"They came to a conclusion many of us knew was very obvious, that John Marks used his office of the mayor for his own personal, private benefit," says Erwin Jackson, the man who filed the complaint against Marks. It's not the first time Jackson has accused Mayor Marks of wrongdoing. In March, the mayor pointed out anyone can file a complaint and he said Jackson, who Marks referred to as an "angry man", had taken advantage of the system.

"There have been 12 complaints filed with the city since 2003. Can you guess who did it, huh? None of which have come to any conclusion that anybody violated the ethics law," Marks said.

A statement released by the mayor on Friday afternoon said this was not a finding of misconduct. He considers public service as mayor a sacred public trust.

In March, the mayor also addressed a pending FBI investigation on the same issues.

"I welcome their investigation. I have absolutely nothing to hide with regards to that," Marks said.

City Commissioner Gil Ziffer says before he can comment, he wants an opportunity to review the ethics commission report when it's made public later this week.

Tallahassee, Florida - June 15, 2012 - 3:10pm

The Florida Commission on Ethics found probable cause in complaints filed against Tallahassee Mayor John Marks by local businessman Erwin Jackson.

Mayor John Marks was not available for comment.

Stay with WCTV for details.

Tallahassee, Florida - June 15, 2012 -

A hearing for an ethics complaint against Tallahassee's mayor is taking place. Local businessman Erwin Jackson filed the complaint against Mayor John Marks.

At issue in this complaint is the mayor's association with two companies. As we've previously reported, the mayor voted to give a non-profit group called the Alliance for Digital Equality or ADE a city contract. The mayor had been paid thousands of dollars by that group.

As we've also reported, the Federal Bureau of Investigation seized files from the city attorney's office several months ago to take a look at this issue. However, to date, the U.S. Attorney has not taken any action in the case.

The current ethics complaint also claims Mayor Marks had an improper association with Honeywell. That company received a $50,000,000 no bid contract from the city to install smart meters to save energy.

The complaint claims the mayor's former law firm, the now defunct Miami based Adorno & Yoss, had Honeywell as a client. Therefore, Jackson claims the company was given favored treatment.

One of two things will happen today. The ethics commission will either determine there's enough evidence or probable cause to pursue the ethics complaint against the mayor, or the commission will decide there isn't enough evidence and drop the matter.

We should point out, this complaint is the latest in a series of complaints by Jackson against Mayor Marks. To date, none of them has resulted in a ruling against the mayor.

Tallahassee, FL - February 3, 2012

Tallahassee's mayor has been cleared of any wrongdoing in an ethics complaint against him.

Today, Mayor John Marks appeared before the state ethics commission

As a matter of state law, the nature of a complaint like this one is not made public until the commission decides there's enough evidence to pursue the case. It's called probable cause.

Today, the commission determined there wasn't probable cause to pursue the ethics complaint against Mayor Marks.

Tallahassee Mayor John Marks walks into a closed door session of Florida's ethics commission. Within minutes, he came out again.

Ron Meyer, Mayor's attorney, says, "There's no ethics violation, mayor marks has been cleared."

Despite being cleared, Mayor Marks' attorney declined to waive confidentiality in the case, so the nature of it won't be made public until the commission issues a report next week.

"It's not much of a surprise"

However, Tim Haifley tells us he's the man who filed the original complaint. Specifically, he believes Gary Yordon and the mayor's campaign manager in 2010 Sean Pittman worked on the mayor's re-election in exchange for city business.

Haifley says, "Whatever they do with our money, with our time, with our office, the power that we give them, it's ours, they serve us, we don't serve them."

But Yordon tells us he has no work with the city. He says the claim is simply untrue and the commission's decision to drop the case speaks for itself.

We weren't able to reach Pittman by phone, but Yordon tells us while Pittman did have business with the city, there's a specific exemption under the law to allow him to do it.

"These spurious complaints that people just come in here and file just because they can have to stop. It's not good for government, it's certainly not good for the city of Tallahassee. The mayor has been cleared, write that down, the mayor has been cleared."

While today is certainly a victory for Mayor Marks, his legal troubles are not over. Local activist Erwin Jackson has his own complaint against the mayor. He claims Marks has improperly profited from three businesses with city contracts.

He expects his complaint will be addressed next month. Additionally Jackson tells us he's been talking to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the mayor for months. An FBI spokesman would neither confirm nor deny there's an active investigation of the mayor.

Tallahassee, Florida - February 3, 2012

Tallahassee Mayor John Marks went before the Florida Commission on Ethics on February 3rd. At the commission meeting, Marks was cleared of an undisclosed ethics complaint filed against him.

The details of the ethics complaints will not be released until next Wednesday. WCTV is working to get this information sooner.

August 22, 2011

Statement Issued By Mayor Marks in Regards to Ethics Complaint

“As Mayor I’m busy serving the people of Tallahassee and fulfilling the duties of this office. I can’t stop everything I’m doing each time Erwin Jackson files another complaint with a different agency.

“I believe the public is beginning to see what Erwin Jackson is all about. He’s filed several complaints and, rather than wait to see how they turn out, he files more complaints. He’s more interested in creating controversy than letting the process run its course and having the Ethics Commission and the Bar carry out their responsibilities.

“The Florida Bar will review this and I’ll accept whatever it decides to do. But until then, I can’t continue to have the City’s tail wagged by Erwin Jackson every time he files a complaint. I have responsibilities to the people of the City of Tallahassee.”

A Tallahassee businessman and former city commission candidate takes his ethics complaints against Mayor Marks to the Florida Bar.

Erwin Jackson says the City of Tallahassee gave Honeywell a $52-million contract while Mayor John Marks' law firm was representing the company.

Jackson filed an ethics complaint with the Florida Bar, also citing similar concerns regarding Marks and the Alliance for Digital Equality (A.D.E.)

Jackson says, "You have to be willing to refuse any payments to you personally, to your wife, to your son, to your consulting firm, to your law practice. I don't care what door they pass the money through to get to the elected official, it's wrong."

Jackson's complaint also says Marks used his staff to solicit contracts to AT&T.

We have not heard back from Mayor Marks or his office on a response.

WCTV will keep you posted when the Florida Bar makes a decision.

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