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Former Tallahassee Mayor's Land Deals Questioned

PART 1

Tallahassee, FL -- June 14, 2012 --

Former Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox announced in February he's running for city commissioner.

It prompted another former mayor, Penny Herman, who served with Maddox, to take a look at his real estate deals while he was mayor.

Herman says, "It's just totally disappointing and alarming and I think you know it;'s unfortunate that it's just now coming out that this happened."

Herman specifically points to a land deal involving the Wal-Mart Super Center on Apalachee Parkway while Maddox was mayor.

While Wal-Mart was waiting permitting approval, public records obtained exclusively by Eyewitness News, show in November, 1996 a deed to a piece of property was prepared between Wal-Mart and two companies, Venture East and Spectrum Resources.

Maddox owns Spectrum.

In March, 1997, just after Maddox was elected mayor, the city commission approved the Wal-Mart Center.

Maddox abstained from voting.

Fifteen days later, Maddox's company bought the property.

Over the next two and a half years, records show Venture East and Spectrum Resources earned a net gain of $600-thousand dollars on the Wal-Mart land deals.

Herman says, " I think it's alarming and I think that to make matters worse, the deed was prepared before the permit was finalized."

Maddox's company was also involved in other Tallahassee land deals requiring city approval while he was mayor.

Spectrum Resources purchased and sold property while the Buckhead subdivision was being built.

But unlike the Wal-Mart deal, city records show Maddox did vote on Buckhead issues.

In November, 1997, Maddox voted to approve Buckhead Phase 1B.

About two months later in January, 1998, then Mayor Maddox voted for an exception to the city code to allow development of 6 large lots in Buckhead Phase 3 without sewer.

About four months later in April, 1998, Maddox purchased Buckhead property.

A little over a year later on June 23rd, 1999, Maddox's company, Spectrum Resources purchased $420-thousand dollars worth of Buckhead land.

Also on June 23rd, Spectrum sold land in the Centre Pointe development for $260-thousand dollars.

The same day, Mayor Maddox voted to approve a change in Center Pointe's development plan.

A new watchdog group called "Integrity Florida" recently called for the state to tighten its ethics laws.

We specifically asked Executive Director Dan Krassner about elected leaders making land and business deals while in office.

Krassner says, "If someone has insider information and they can make money off it, a piece of property and it's based on knowledge others outside the process don't have, I think that's crossing the line."

In March, we specifically asked Maddox about any business dealings he had while he was mayor.

Reporter: "Did you have other outside interests, did you work for several other companies?"
Maddox: "No, I was an attorney during that period of time and was of counsel with a law firm, but what was important to me was I spent my time being mayor."

We should point out no one has ever filed any type of ethics or formal complaint based on the land deals we showed you.

In March, we spoke to Maddox as part of our investigation of financial disclosure forms for elected officials.

Coming up in Part 2, we'll take a look at how Maddox filled out his disclosure forms while his company was making land deals.

PART 2

Financial disclosure forms for Florida's elected leaders are designed to give the state's residents insight on the people representing them.

Earlier, we showed you how Scott Maddox made money on Tallahassee land deals while he was mayor. Now, we take a look at Maddox's disclosure forms.

Penny Herman is a former Tallahassee mayor.

She's also a real estate agent.

Herman says when she was elected to the city commission, even though the law didn't require it, she suspended her real estate business.

Herman says, "I didn't want there to be any appearance of any issues as far as my real estate and I felt the best way to do that was to set that aside."

Former Mayor Scott Maddox took a different path.

According to county records, during Maddox's term as mayor his company Spectrum Resources purchased a little over $1.1 million dollars in Tallahassee real estate.

It sold that same property for $2.7 million.

As we've previously reported, the financial disclosure form used by city elected leaders does not require dollar amounts for outside interests.

In March, we specifically asked Maddox about financial disclosure.

Scott Maddox, former Tallahassee Mayor, says, "I think when you run for public office, your life is an open book. And if people wish to know where you get your funding from or your private sector job versus your public sector one, you need to be willing to disclose that. I always have when asked and I will continue to."

However, Herman has several issues with how Maddox filled out his forms while he was making commercial real estate deals.

The disclosure form says to list principal business activity for sources of outside income.

For Spectrum, the company involved in the real estate deals, Maddox's form says "marketing and research" and "research and consulting"

Herman says, "Well it's certainly misleading at the very least."

Also in Maddox's 1998 form under real property owned, there's a note. it says owned as of August, 1999.

However the instructions specifically say to fill it out the form for the calendar year listed.

Records show Spectrum owned some property where the Apalachee Parkway Super Wal-Mart was built, but it's not listed on that form.

Records also show Spectrum sold property at the Center Pointe Development in 1999.

It's not listed on any year's form.

Herman says, "The instructions are very clear that you put your real estate and your deals on there and if they don't appear, not okay, not right."

A new watchdog group called "Integrity Florida" is calling for more complete financial disclosure for public officials and accountability.

Dan Krassner,"Integrity Florida" Executive Director, says. "We need to give our professionals at the state ethics commission the ability to just begin the investigation process to find out why you didn't file that form, why did you omit a key asset."

In 1998, former Commissioner Debbie Lightsey tried to push for more financial disclosure for Tallahassee's elected leaders.

Then Mayor Maddox is quoted in a local newspaper as calling the proposal "another layer of bureaucracy".

We also found the people Maddox partnered with on the land deals had previous city contracts.

Herman openly admits she's supporting one of Maddox's opponents in the commissioner's race.

However, neither Herman nor anyone else has ever accused him of breaking specific ethics rules or the law with regard to the land deals or disclosure forms.

We have been speaking with Scott Maddox on the phone about the issues we've reported.

We have offered and continue to offer him the opportunity to speak to us on camera about these issues.


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