Watch Dog says Gillum charges ‘black eye’ to Tallahassee
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A nonpartisan research institute and government watch dog calls the federal indictment of former Tallahassee mayor, and former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum a “black eye” to the city.
Research director with Integrity Florida, Ben Wilcox, said he believed some of Gillum’s conduct for which he is now facing 21 federal charges including conspiracy and wire fraud for funneling donations through third parties back to himself for personal use “did overlap some of his time as mayor of Tallahassee.”
“I think the charges are pay to play. He’s promising government contracts in exchange for campaign contributions,” Wilcox said. “That’s basic pay-to-play corruption.”
Gillum’s associate, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, 53, is a co-defendant on the wire fraud charges and the indictment states she was facilitating the pay-to-play corruption.
Both entered not guilty pleas Wednesday in federal court, and Gillum released a statement the same day denying all charges.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida, Gillum is also charged with making false statements to the FBI - for claiming he didn’t receive or ask for anything from two undercover FBI agents posing as developers who offered gifts and money in exchange for political support for projects.
Wilcox said a pattern of corruption is troubling for city leaders.
“Unfortunately we’ve had a lot of ‘black eyes’ recently including a former city commissioner now in jail for basically the same kind of pay-to-play corruption,” Wilcox said.
Former City Commissioner Scott Maddox, his associate Paige Carter Smith and businessman JT Burnette are all in federal prison on corruption convictions.
Wilcox said Gillum’s charges, and the overall corruption of Tallahassee politicians have hurt the city’s prospects of bringing in new businesses and opportunities to the area.
“Nobody wants to bring a new business to a city with pay-to-play corruption and unfortunately that’s our reputation,” Wilcox said.
The former gubernatorial candidate faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
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